Hotline glitch hinders spill response

By Patrick O' Sullivan

A spill of suspected pig effluent into the Esk River on Thursday continued unabated because the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's (HBRC) Pollution Hotline was not working.

Taradale trout fisherman Colin Cook abandoned his fishing immediately after discovering what he claims was "100 per cent pure green sewage" flowing from an Eskdale piggery into the river.

"It took me seven phone calls to get through to the Regional Council Pollution Hotline," he said.

"Seven times I got given the roundabout, from one area to another. Basically there was no one attending the hotline at all."

HBRC acting manager of compliance, Wayne Wright, said there had been "a programming glitch" that had since been fixed.

"It was simply going through to the answering service," he said.

"Somehow he got hold of the chairman who got hold of [external relations manager] Liz Lambert who got hold of me."

He said a council officer had visited the piggery and it had yet to be determined whether any effluent had gone into the river. Mr Cook said he was raised on a farm "and I know effluent when I see it".

Eskhill Piggery owner Ian Walker said Mr Cook had seen green algae disturbed by a torrential downpour: "There is a natural wetland where water sits and gets algae on the top of it," Mr Walker said. "When it rains the water flows in and lifts the algae and it flows into the river."

Mr Wright said the council officer had discovered some effluent had escaped from a pond and had taken a water sample to compare with the wetland water leaking into the river, which was on a different part of the farm.

Mr Walker said the pond overflow was an oversight during development work to separate out solid waste from the pond. He was confident no effluent had made it to the river.

As an extra precaution he had made the pond walls higher and at the wetland area shored up a lip of earth near the river.

"All we are stopping is the rainwater - that's the only thing that has been a problem. We haven't irrigated on this farm for three months." He said the matter was "very stressful".

"We take our consents very seriously. He [Mr Cook] is convinced it was sewage but the bottom line is, it bloody well wasn't."

Mr Wright said the test results would be available in about two weeks, after which charges could be laid if the wetland water proved to be similar to the pond water.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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