Wellington City Council considering dumping wastewater into Cook Strait

Kate Nicol-Williams
Source: 1News

Discharging treated wastewater into the Cook Strait is among options Wellington City Council is considering as it deals with loss of income due to coronavirus restrictions.

Councillor Sean Rush, Infrastructure Three Waters portfolio leader, said no decision has been made but discussions are ongoing.

A meeting to hear the views of Wellington Water and local iwi is planned for tomorrow, he said.

"I know this is a disaster for mana whenua so need to get the right people in the room.

"We all realise we are in a difficult place and as Wellingtonians we want to get through this," Mr Rush said.

The proposal would see an outfall at Moa Point reinstated to deposit treated wastewater two kilometres into Cook Strait.

"We know it would be an option... a lot of people would be violently opposed to it," a Wellington City Council spokesperson said.

Mr Rush said he is aware of the environmental risk but is seeking further advice on this as he understands an initial report for the outfall said the waste being treated meant there was no hazard.

Since pipelines broke earlier this year, more than a million litres of waste has been transported by trucks every day from Moa Point treatment plant to the city's landfill.

Mr Rush said that's costing around $650,000 a week.

Other options being considered include asking transporters for a reduced cost and repaying the ongoing cost of transport over 10 years with a loan, he said.

The treated waste has to be mixed with other material as part of the consent for dumping the liquid at the landfill, but with pandemic restrictions in place green waste is unavailable so dirt and stone is being used.

This mix is filling up available space twelve times as quickly, Mr Rush said.

"I recognise this is confronting for a lot of people but leadership isn't about making easy decisions.

"We need to have the right evidence, right people and right discussions," he said.

The fix for the failed pipes is a polyster woven liner which will be spread between the ends of both pipes and expanded to work as a pipeline within the old system.

The delivery of this item from a German manufacturer has been delayed due to restrictions on business production put in place by their government, Wellington Water previously stated.

The liners are expected to arrive in Wellington in mid-May, Wellington Water chief executive Colin Crampton said in a statement in late March.

"We appreciate the ongoing patience and understanding of the communities in the area. Trucking operations are not ideal from anyone's perspective, but they are successfully keeping millions of litres of wastewater from flowing into Cook Strait," he said.

Councillor Sean Rush has raised concerns that that there could be further delay in the delivery of the liners or with the challenging repair job.

"Every day we delay is another $100,000," he said.

Wellington Water chief executive Colin Crampton said the long-term aim should be stopping waste being dumped in the landfill, with alternatives being investigated at the moment.