21 Jan 2019

Residents say wastewater leaking onto Whirinaki Beach in Hawke's Bay is 'illegal activity'

8:27 am on 21 January 2019

A wastewater pipe leaking onto a public beach from a Hawke's Bay forestry products company should be shut down until it is fixed, residents say.

A warning sign on Whirinaki.

A warning sign on Whirinaki. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

The pipe from Pan Pac Forest Products is meant to carry wastewater 2.4 kilometres out to sea from its processing plant but has, for months, been leaking brown foamy water onto Whirinaki Beach, north of Napier.

Three attempts to fix the leak since September have failed and locals have said they were disappointed the Hawke's Bay Regional Council allowed the company to continue using it while it leaked.

Lei, who has lived by the pipeline, said no one wanted to see the pipe leaking on the foreshore.

"We shouldn't have to live with that effluent right at our front door."

Resident Kerry Le Geyt said she was disappointed at the company and council's lack of action.

"We're actually thinking about moving because of this whole issue."

Her neighbour, Warren Kohlis, was also angry the council continued to allow Pan Pac to discharge its wastewater through the leaking pipe.

"This is an illegal activity.

"The regional council can't abdicate their responsibility in looking after the environment. There's no pressure on Pan Pac to fix it, so they're getting away with continuing to discharge."

Pan Pac Forestry Products, the region's second largest employer, has a resource consent to discharge wastewater 2.4 kilometres out to sea from the beach.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council regulation group manager Liz Lambert admitted Pan Pac was in breach of its consent by discharging onto the beach, but no action would be taken yet.

Whirinaki Beach residents Kerry Le Geyt and Warren Kohlis.

Whirinaki Beach residents Kerry Le Geyt and Warren Kohlis. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

"We're satisfied they're doing all they can. We're dissatisfied with the amount of time it's taking and obviously the impact it's having in the local area."

There was little point in issuing an abatement notice to fix the pipe as the company was already trying to fix it, she said.

That Pan Pac was the second largest employer in the region and the largest customer of regional council-owned Napier Port had no bearing on its dealings with the company, she said.

High levels of faecal matter detected near the leak were currently being investigated by the council and signs had been put up warning people not to swim or fish within 150 metres of the pipeline, she said.

However, the only signs sighted by RNZ warned people to keep clear of the pipeline while repairs were underway. Residents said they had never been told not to enter the water.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board said one sample of the water had detected campylobacter which was being investigated, but it did not believe there was any risk to the public.

Pan Pac managing director Doug Ducker said some divers working on the pipe had contracted skin rashes from the water but swimming outside the 150 metre exclusion zone was safe.

"The bulk of the wastewater is still discharging 2.4km offshore through the pipeline.

"What we have is a leak on the way out and while technically it could be argued that we are in breach of consent, we immediately notified the regional council and the health board."

Mr Ducker said the pipe was located two and a half metres under the seabed, encased in concrete, which made detecting the leak difficult.

"To date we have incurred costs in excess of $300,000."

Replacing the pipe could take between eight and 12 months, and Pan Pac should know by the end of this week if that was needed.

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