Pong from sewage works gets up people's noses

By John Cousins

Two-thirds of people living in Tauranga's oldest residential area are affected by the pong blown across from the Chapel St sewage treatment works.

A council-commissioned telephone survey carried out in May-June has revealed a lot of noses were wrinkling from odours generated by the treatment works at Chapel St and Te Maunga.

The survey results were revealed to a council wastewater management committee meeting on Wednesday.

It also highlighted how patience was running out from residents who lived closest to the Te Maunga industrial area.

The worst-affected residents were those living at the end of Te Papa Peninsula, between McLean St and The Elms. The survey showed 67 per cent detected an industrial odour "at some stage" while 33 per cent smelled nothing.

The opposite was true in the more distant areas of Bureta and the eastern end of Pillans Point where nearly two-thirds never noticed industrial smells.

When the results of the two areas were combined, a total of 4 per cent said they often noticed odours, 19 per cent sometimes noticed odours and 12 per cent seldom noticed odours.

Asked how annoyed they felt about the odours, only 6 per cent of the 144 people surveyed in the areas around Chapel St described the smells as quite annoying or very annoying.

Fifteen per cent were not annoyed or a little annoyed.

When quizzed about the source of all odours, rotting sea lettuce emerged as the second-worst source of smells. About a third of residents identified sea lettuce.

The survey for Te Maunga was less clear cut because the sources of industrial smells could have come from other industries including the composting plant and rubbish transfer station.

Five per cent of the 258 residents surveyed said they often noticed an industrial odour, 30 per cent said sometimes and 8 per cent seldom noticed odours.

The rest (56 per cent) said they never noticed odours

The survey area ringed the Te Maunga industrial estate and Baypark and included Bayfair Estate and Oceandowns from Grenada St to State Highway 2.

However the intolerance to smells was higher than Chapel St, with 46 per cent feeling quite annoyed or very annoyed. This was a steep rise from the 2010 survey when only 5 per cent felt so keenly.

It left 54 per cent who were not annoyed or a little annoyed by the smells.

Only 33 per cent of residents around Te Maunga were able to pin point the sewage works as the most common cause of smells.

Twenty-four per cent singled out the transfer station and 19 per cent the composting plant.

Nearly all the rest were not specific or blamed other sources.

The consents manager for city waters, John Gibbons-Davies, said there were also smell issues from peat being disturbed by the construction of the Eastern Link, and the enlarging of the Maranui stormwater ponds.

He said it was a bit of a challenge dealing with public perceptions of what was causing the odours.

Mr Gibbons-Davies said a good practice guide published by the Ministry for the Environment suggested that the level of odour being emitted from the Chapel St plant was acceptable to the majority of residents.

As for Te Maunga, he said the smells were likely to be having a small and noticeable, but not objectionable effect on the community.

His conclusions were also based on additional survey results from residents living in "control" areas further away from the two sewage treatment works.

The committee accepted the report with the debate around simplifying the questionnaire for the 2014 survey.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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