28 Jan 2019

Council investigating maintenance records on broken wastewater pipe

7:01 pm on 28 January 2019

Maintenance records of a wood processing company that continues to leak wastewater onto a public beach are being examined by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

A warning sign on Whirinaki.

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

The pipe from Pan Pac Forest Products was meant to carry wastewater 2.4 kilometres out to sea from its processing plant, but for months it has been leaking brown foamy water onto Whirinaki Beach - in breach of its resource consent.

After several failed attempts to fix the leak, the company said last week that a temporary fix would be finished by the end of February.

A longer term solution of replacing an old section of the pipe could cost more than $1 million and a take year to fix. Pan Pac's chief executive Doug Ducker has flown to Japan to discuss the issue with its owner Oji Green Resources.

The council has previously said it would not issue an abatement notice to Pan Pac even though it was not allowed to discharge wastewater so close to the shore, because it was doing all it can to fix the leak.

But council staff were looking at whether Pan Pac has adequately maintained the pipe, as per its resource consent conditions.

"The Regional Council has not yet determined whether any enforcement action by way of an infringement notice or prosecution for the incident is required as our investigation into the incident is still underway," Hawke's Bay Regional Council compliance manager Wayne Wright wrote in an agenda paper ahead of Wednesday's council meeting.

The council had considered shutting the plant down, but decided against it, he said.

"Given the time the repair is taking, it would have seen the pulp mill inoperable for 4-5 months. This would have major impacts on the workforce and the wood supply chain within Pan Pac's operations, weighed against the environmental and public health impacts of partial discharge at the shoreline.

"Had the environmental or public health impacts of the discharge been significant the Regional Council would be prepared to take this step," he said.