The dramatic night lifting of a barge, excavator and other machinery over Keepa Rd Bridge in Whakatāne marked the smooth transition into the final section of the Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council, with co-funding from the Ministry for the Environment, is working with the community to clean up dioxin-contaminated sediment in the Kopeopeo Canal.

The canal was contaminated between the 1950s and late 1980s as a result of stormwater discharges from a former sawmill, which treated timber using Pentachlorophenol (PCP).

The Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project is removing sediment from the canal using a barge-mounted cutter-suction dredge.

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The project is being undertaken in a staged approach to remove, safely store and treat up to 40,000m3 of sediment.

Sediment is transferred along a pipeline to geotubes inside containment sites.

As the barge moves along the canal it needs to be lifted over bridges and pipelines, and this night lift was the sixth and final of the lifts along the project length.

Digger lifted by crane over Whakatane Bridge at night during Kopeopeo Canal remediation project. Photo / Supplied
Digger lifted by crane over Whakatane Bridge at night during Kopeopeo Canal remediation project. Photo / Supplied

In a statement, deputy project manager Ken Tarboton said that the process went smoothly and according to plan.

"All of the other lifts have been in daylight hours, but this was at night because the contractor wanted to minimise any potential traffic-related effects," Tarboton said.

"There was a lot of planning and preparation to ensure the safety of all the workers on site and to make sure that there were contingencies and back-up plans in place.

"There is a lot of equipment to move in the right order – first removing all the materials from the barge and setting them aside so we can move the barge itself to the other side of the bridge. Then we needed to put it all back together again on the other side."

Night lifts of barge and machinery marks significant milestone in the Kopeopeo Canal remediation project. Photo / Supplied
Night lifts of barge and machinery marks significant milestone in the Kopeopeo Canal remediation project. Photo / Supplied

Tarboton said full credit must go to the contractor crane crew and site manager, Des McCleary from EnviroWaste Services Limited, for such a smooth lift.

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Dredging will continue along the final section of the canal towards the confluence with the Orini Stream.

Four kilometres of the total 5.1km had been dredged so far, marking about 80 per cent of the project completion.

Dredging is expected to be completed by the middle of the year, but work will continue on the Keepa Rd containment site to cover and start bioremediation of contained material.

During that time, access through the site along the stopbank will remain restricted.

Detailed information on the Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project can be found at on Bay of Plenty Regional Council's website