Mangonui Haulage owner Dennis Sparksman was the centre of attention for a Māori TV crew on Friday as the first business owner in the country to install a commercial electro coagulation (EC) wastewater cleaning unit, a move described by local guardianship group Clean Waters to the Sea (CWTS) as "bold".

Trustee Tiger Tukariri said he had always looked at the water outfall from the company's stock truck washdown pond into the harbour with concern, and when the opportunity to clean the water with EC technology arose, he talked to Mr Sparksman. The pond system had been consented by the Northland Regional Council, but Mr Sparksman had been open to the idea of using the technology.

"I needed to know that the EC machine could in fact do a better job though, so I give credit to Clean Waters, and especially Andreas Kurmann, who made the water testing trial a school project for the Mangonui school kids. They stuck at it for two years, and produced the scientific data that proved it did the job. That was fantastic," he said.

The EC unit would be mounted in a small shed on a newly-laid concrete pad, and would be switched on next month.

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"The wastewater will go from the pond, through the unit, and then into two settlement tanks from which clean water will overflow, but I want to put in a small third tank so I can pump the water up and use it again when I need it, especially in summer, when we often have to buy water," he added.

With a capital cost of $33,000, the unit could process 36 cubic metres of wastewater per day, capacity that would suit dairy farmers.

CWTS trustee Andreas Kurmann said replacing expensive, ineffective farm pond systems with EC units would be of direct benefit to receiving waters. A lot of interest was being shown in the technology throughout the country, he said, warning Mr Sparksman that he could expect a lot of visitors wanting to look at his machine.

"You could claw some of your money back with a tour fee," he added, but Mr Sparksman said it was money well spent to do the right thing.

"But I do feel a little proud to be the first in the country," he added. "I look forward to driving past Mangonui Harbour and thinking, 'Well, any pollution in there is not coming from my business'."

He also believed that the Far North District Council should be looking at the technology for its wastewater treatment plant at Taipa, which had recently been re-consented by the regional council but was to be challenged by CWTS.

"It seems to be common sense," he said.

"If it's cheaper, and it works, why wouldn't you? They're welcome to come and look at my machine."

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