Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dirty dairying II

Last week, I blogged about the decision of the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council to allow dairy giant Fonterra to dump 8,500 cubic meters of effluent a day into the Manawatu River from its Longburn plant. According to yesterday's Manawatu Standard, the decision is now being challenged in the environment court. Meanwhile, a letter to the Standard has pointed out exactly how filthy Fonterra is being. Water quality is typically measured as biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) - roughly the amount of oxygen pollution sucks out of the water as it biodegrades. The BOD of treated wastewater is around 30 g/m3, and that of raw sewage (which we don't usually allow to be dumped into rivers) around 200 g/m3. According to Fonterra's consent, the average BOD of their effluent is 2,600 g/m3, and can reach as high as 16,000. The net effect is graphically illustrated by the following:

[Palmerston North City Council] discharges about 720 kg BOD per day. Fonterra has predicted that it will discharge an average of 2546 kg BOD per day. This is the equivalent of a town the size of Wanganui dumping all its raw sewage into the river. In one in 20 days BOD discharged will reach over 6000 kg per day, the equivalent of a city the size of Dunedin

(Emphasis added).

In this day and age, we wouldn't let a town or city just dump its untreated shit into a river (the few that still do are being forced to clean up their act). We shouldn't let Fonterra do the equivalent - particularly when it relies on New Zealand's "clean and green" image to market itself overseas.


Not sure you're comparing like for like. Untreated wastewater, apart from using oxygen as it biodegrades, is also full of pathogens. I don't know what Fonterra are dumping - but if it's a milk constituent it's likely to have relatively few pathogens in it.

Not to condone it, but it's different from filling the river with raw sewage and giving everyone cholera.

Posted by Rich : 8/17/2006 05:08:00 PM

Its wash water and runoff from making milk powder; the problem is likely to be using up oxygen (and thereby degrading the environment for other species) rather than pathogens. That said, it will make the river worse for swimming in (not that people should ATM), and have a significant effect on the wetlands downstream.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/17/2006 06:07:00 PM

The waste is nitrogen rich. The downstream wetlands will love it. Nutrients for them.

That volume of waste would simply not go through the town waste water system. You would be talking about doubling the load and it would not be designed for that.

I agree with you in principle that we should be making rivers cleaner. The difficulty for both Fonterra and the council is that properly treating the effluent is costly and takes a long time and a lot of land. Simply telling Fonterra to stop ( or even substantially reduce) the BOD element of the discharge may make a marginally economic plant uneconomic. Then the council causes the plant to be closed, losing irreplaceable jobs as the production moves to a site better suited. As with all pollution the balance between economic growth and the environment is a difficult one. In this instance the council chose jobs, but neither side can report that logic publicly for obvious reasons.

Posted by sagenz : 8/17/2006 08:29:00 PM

Simple answer would be to allow Fonterra to dump as they have asked providing they do so above the point where they draw water from the river.
More seriously.
BOD5 is a measure over 5 days of the Biological Oxygen Demand on a receiving water. The amounts they are proposing will almost certainly damage the river, but in any case in 2006 such an arrogant attitude to the wellbeing of the environment is simply not acceptable.

Another classic example of a monopoly trampling on the community.

At the same time I am at a loss to understand how the Commisioners for the Manawatu-Wanganui
Regional Council could have agreed to the application. Are they all dairy Farmers and/or directors of Fonterra?.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/17/2006 08:37:00 PM

Sage: Does the word eutrophication mean anything at all to you?

PN's waste water system currently handles 12.9 billion litres (= 12.9 million cubic metres) a year. That's around 35000 kL per day. Fonterra's waste stream would increase this by 25% during the six months they are allowed to discharge.

The fact that it was considered suggests that it could be handled (they're in the midst of an upgrade ATM - and more importantly, the system will be designed around peak loads rather than annual throughput), but there are other options anyway - land-based disposal being an obvious one. This would cost - but again, if a business can't afford to pay the true costs of their activities, then they shouldn't be in business.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/17/2006 11:22:00 PM

It seems the consent to discharge was approved because the effect on the river was considered insignificant. This is because the water quality is already so bad that further dumping, even on this scale, would have little additional effect.

I wonder what we are to make of Fonterra's
that: "Wastewater treatment facilities are standard at all Fonterra manufacturing plants, and are subject to regular capital investment along with milk processing facilities"?

Posted by pohanginapete : 8/18/2006 09:13:00 AM

Yes that last comment is right. The MWRC's own water quality standards were already being breached, so they decided it would be unfair to reject Fonterra's application on the basis that however well treated or minimal the discharges were, they could not possibly pass the test of not breaching the standards.

It certainly makes you wonder why they bothered deciding upon a standard in the first place, if its not being used as a means to improve water quality or prevent further degradation.

It seemed fairly technical and bureaucratic, no explicit discussion of economic/environmental tradeoffs or costs of alternative disposal methods (apart from Fonterra's promise that all other methods were apparently prohibitively costly), at least on my skim reading. I guess thats how these documents go. I have a copy of the decision I can email to anyone who wants it - I couldn't find it on their website so emailed them to get it.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/18/2006 06:20:00 PM

the discharge to the wanganui river that causes real damage is tasman tanning. that is exactly the problem i was talking about. I am not saying it is right. simply that there are alwasy tradeoffs.

Posted by sagenz : 8/21/2006 04:36:00 AM

btw savant, eutrophication. I know it. 25% annual load for 6 months is a 50% increase at peak times. my point stands. I am not saying you are wrong. but if they nail fonterra, tasman, richmond and the other baddies they will nbot have capacitx in town supply. land based treatment is a viable long term option with the economic constraints. but bring it back to basic choices. would you rather have a job or a dirty river.

Posted by sagenz : 8/21/2006 04:42:00 AM

We in the Horowhenua are in our infancy in promoting tourism and pride ourselves to be “Pure, Clean and Green” and our slogan "Feel the Real New Zealand".
We have the majestic Tararua Ranges, lakes, rivers, bush reserves, and our safe beaches which are all virtually untouched.
How can we promote ourselves as "Pure, Clean and Green" when our neighbours upstream in the Manawatu Region are getting away with putting their commercial waste and human effluent into the mighty Manawatu River and using it as an open sewer to flow out to sea, onto our beautiful Horowhenua Beaches.
For the sake of our health and our future generations we need to make change now.
We need to protect the environment that we live in.
We need to act now.
We need Horowhenua District Council to make a stance for our region, the Horowhenua district.
The Manawatu River is one of the most polluted rivers in New Zealand.
The Manawatu River is of national importance, and needs protecting, and is not to be used as an open sewer out to sea and onto our beaches.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/21/2006 01:07:00 PM

Campbell Live (TV3) is apparently doing an item about this, tonight. Tuesday 22 August, 7 p.m.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/22/2006 12:33:00 PM

Sage: well, do you think we should be subsidising uneconomic businesses?

That's what this is - an environmental subsidy. but if we're unwilling to pay businesses to "create jobs" or employ people through the railways and forestry schemes, then I don't see why we should be doing the same thing by allowing them to pollute.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/22/2006 12:48:00 PM

Tim: I'd like a copy. My email address is inthe sidebar; please remove the words in caps.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/22/2006 12:50:00 PM

These are Fonterra's Values on their own web-site.

These values are articulated and defined by underlying Principles.
Focused on the Future
• Prepare for tomorrow's world while respecting today's
• Preserve the cooperative principle of winning together
• Respect people, communities and the environment
• Build relationships with our stakeholders that will endure
With Complete Integrity
• Communicate with openness and honesty
• Deliver on our individual and corporate commitments
• Be accountable for our actions and impact
• Treat all people fairly and with dignity
Energised by Innovation
• Constantly improve, always strive to be better
• Encourage diversity of people, ideas and opinions
• Recognise other's good ideas and adopt them
• Take risks and learn from failures
Delivering Uncompromised Results
• Believe in our ability to succeed and play to win
• Measure a job well done through our customer's eyes
• Deliver outstanding commercial success
• Recognise performance and celebrate achievements

They are not delivering what they promise.
Big business and profit definately comes first before they consider the impact on the environment!
Lobby your council, regional council, and Fonterra!
Put pen to paper, let the people in your region know what is going on.
Watch TV 3 tonight on Campbell Live and you will see and hear the truth!
We in the Horowhenua are sick and tired of big businesses and PNNC councils toxic sewage waste being dump into our river because it is the cheapest option!
One day we will need this river to drink from!
Each and everyone of us are the guardians of this planet we live on.
It is high time we all thought about our environment for our future generations!
The only way to make change is for you the little people to stand up and fight for your rights.
Don't think about it!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/22/2006 01:19:00 PM

The horrendous reality is that Horizons has allowed these Consents to continue due to the fact that they are based on the "old boy’s network" system of doing things, rather than following the mandate that they are voted into by the ratepayers to look after our environment.
But only if business is not disturbed, they think.
Are these the values that the ratepayers want the Regional Council to base their decisions on?
These values are clearly shown by their practice of not fining businesses or local councils for breaching consents that have expired etc.
It makes a mockery of the usual punishment regime of NZ where if we are pulled over by police for traffic infringements etc, a costly fine is issued for a breach of the law.
It also shows up Fonterra, who tries to promote its products using the clean, green image of NZ, as a contributing polluter to our wonderful rivers and coastline. Fonterra have chosen the cheapest option for disposing of waste versus the environmentally friendly options.
Let’s hope the people's will to stop this, WILL override business concerns and the old boy’s network in our regional councils. Go NZ/Aotearoa.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/22/2006 06:41:00 PM


Community Board Decides Not To Appeal Fonterra Discharge Permit

The Foxton Community Board has decided that it will not appeal the Fonterra discharge permit to the Manawatu River.

Board Chairperson, Basil Vertongen said that the decision issued by Horizons Regional Council adequately addressed the concerns raised by the Board in its submission.

"The Board's submission covered three main areas of concern, namely water quality standards, consideration of treatment options, and the term. The decision requires Fonterra to investigate in detail alternative treatment options and to report on the best practicable options for maximising water use efficiency, minimising effluent volumes, and optimising effluent treatment. These reports are due within a two year timeframe, after which the regional council will monitor implementation of the best practicable option," Mr Vertongen said.

The decision further provides for strict control of the quantity and quality of the discharge during the months of November to April, consistent with contact recreation water quality standards and allows for the conditions of the permit to be reviewed as a result of any new rule relating to minimum water quality standards.

While the Board remains hopeful that Fonterra's discharge will ultimately be totally to land, noting that a significant proportion of the discharge is already to land, it believes that overall the decision is a reasonable one which has the potential for early implementation of an improved treatment system.

“We will be watching closely the progress with this discharge”, said Mr Vertongen.

This is what the Horowhenua people are up against!
These people make decisions without consulting the people!
They did exactly the same to the Horowhenua people when PNCC council got a consent from Horizons to dump there sewage waste water to the river for the next 25 years!
So it is up to you the people to make change!
It is time the people of Horowhenua and the Manawatu district stood up to make your councils accountable for their actions.
It's our lives and lively hood they are playing around with!
Our future generations are at risk!
Make change now!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/22/2006 07:00:00 PM

Hi, I'm doing an essay on this issue. Will the dumping of wastewater benefit anyone, even fish etc? Cheers.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 08:11:00 PM

Health impacts of contaminated recreational water.

There are a number of disease-causing bugs (called pathogens) that once discharged into the marine and freshwater environments can survive for some time. Every time we come into contact with waters that have been contaminated with human and animal faeces, we expose ourselves to these bugs and risk getting sick. Pristine waters are unlikely to present a health risk from these pathogens.
How bad is it?
When monitoring water quality at New Zealand beaches and rivers, water managers and scientists are interested in the number of disease-causing pathogens present. It is impractical to measure the pathogens directly, so indicator bacteria are used to alert water managers to possible health risks presented by the pathogens.
What are indicator bacteria?
In the case of the recreational water quality guidelines, the indicator bacteria are enterococci for marine waters and E. coli for freshwaters. These bacteria occur naturally in the gut of humans and animals, including mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. The indicator bacteria themselves do not pose a significant risk to human health. Rather, they indicate the presence of faecal material, which contains disease-causing pathogens. It is the number of enterococci or E. coli per 100 ml of water that is measured and on which the guideline levels are based.
What are pathogens?
Pathogens are microscopic organisms that cause disease in humans and animals, there are many different kinds. Some of the more widely known are Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium and viruses that cause diarrohoea and cold and flu-like symptoms. These pathogens are present in faeces and may enter our waterways through untreated sewage discharges, and from leaky sewerage pipes, septic tanks, stormwater and rural run-off.

What does ‘risk’ mean?
The risk is of getting sick when swimming, surfing or otherwise being exposed to freshwater or seawater. The guidelines that are used are based on fixed levels of risk, which in turn are based on overseas guidelines (which have been confirmed by New Zealand studies). Overseas investigations have settled on a maximum acceptable level of risk for marine waters of 19 in every 1000 bathers contracting an illness. For freshwaters the accepted level of risk is 8 in every 1000 bathers contracting an illness.
Even when beaches and rivers meet the guidelines there will still be a health risk associated with recreational activities in the sea. Because scientists are not directly measuring the pathogens, it is not possible to say there is zero risk to public health, especially where there are known inputs of human and animal faeces.
If tested waters exceed the acceptable level of risk, the public is advised that the area is unsuitable for recreational activities.
What does ‘illness’ refer to?
Illnesses related to contact with recreational waters were initially thought to be confined to gastrointestinal illness such as salmonellosis. More recently Giardia, Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium have also been shown to cause gastrointestinal illness. These pathogens cause diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting associated with ‘tummy bug’ symptoms. Recent studies indicate that respiratory illnesses, such as those that cause cold and flu-like symptoms, can also result from swimming in sewage-contaminated water. Skin, eye and ear infections can also be caught through contact with marine and fresh waters.
Illnesses related to toxic substances – such as heavy metals or PCBs – are not measurable with indicator bacteria and are not covered in this fact sheet.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 10:36:00 PM

Effects of water pollution.
The effects of water pollution are not only devastating to people but also to animals, fish, and birds. Polluted water is unsuitable for drinking, recreation, agriculture, and industry. It diminishes the aesthetic quality of lakes and rivers. More seriously, contaminated water destroys aquatic life and reduces its reproductive ability. Eventually, it is a hazard to human health. Nobody can escape the effects of water pollution.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 10:41:00 PM

When fresh water is artificially supplemented with nutrients, it results in an abnormal increase in the growth of water plants. This is known as eutrophication. The discharge of waste from industries, agriculture, and urban communities into water bodies generally stretches the biological capacities of aquatic systems. Chemical run-off from fields also adds nutrients to water. Excess nutrients cause the water body to become choked with organic substances and organisms. When organic matter exceeds the capacity of the micro-organisms in water that break down and recycle the organic matter, it encourages rapid growth, or blooms, of algae. When they die, the remains of the algae add to the organic wastes already in the water; eventually, the water becomes deficient in oxygen. Anaerobic organisms (those that do not require oxygen to live) then attack the organic wastes, releasing gases such as methane and hydrogen sulphide, which are harmful to the oxygen-requiring (aerobic) forms of life. The result is a foul-smelling, waste-filled body of water. This has already occurred in such places as Lake Erie and the Baltic Sea, and is a growing problem in freshwater lakes all over India. Eutrophication can produce problems such as bad tastes and odours as well as green scum algae. Also the growth of rooted plants increases, which decreases the amount of oxygen in the deepest waters of the lake. It also leads to the death of all forms of life in the water bodies.

Lobby your councils!
Write to the papers!
Think of our future generations!
Do it today!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 10:45:00 PM

Industrial effluents.
Waste water from manufacturing or chemical processes in industries contributes to water pollution. Industrial waste water usually contains specific and readily identifiable chemical compounds. During the last fifty years, the number of industries in NZ has grown rapidly. But water pollution is concentrated within a few subsectors, mainly in the form of toxic wastes and organic pollutants. Out of this a large portion can be traced to the processing of industrial chemicals and to the food products industry. In fact, a number of large- and medium-sized industries in the region do not have adequate effluent treatment facilities.
Fonterra is one of those industries.
They trade under the umbrella of New Zealand's "Pure, clean, green" image for exporting their dairy products.
It is up to you, the people, to stand up and voice your disgust to Horizons!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 10:57:00 PM

Biochemical oxygen demand, or BOD.
The amount of organic material that can rot in the sewage is measured by the biochemical oxygen demand. BOD is the amount of oxygen required by micro-organisms to decompose the organic substances in sewage. Therefore, the more organic material there is in the sewage, the higher the BOD. It is among the most important parameters for the design and operation of sewage treatment plants. BOD levels of industrial sewage may be many times that of domestic sewage. Dissolved oxygen is an important factor that determines the quality of water in lakes and rivers. The higher the concentration of dissolved oxygen, the better the water quality. When sewage enters a lake or stream, micro-organisms begin to decompose the organic materials. Oxygen is consumed as micro-organisms use it in their metabolism. This can quickly deplete the available oxygen in the water. When the dissolved oxygen levels drop too low, many aquatic species perish. In fact, if the oxygen level drops to zero, the water will become septic. When organic compounds decompose without oxygen, it gives rise to the undesirable odours usually associated with septic or putrid conditions.

This is what Fonterra is doing to the Manawatu River!
Stop it to day!
Ring Horizons!
Write to your papers!
Help save our river for future generations!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 11:01:00 PM