Fulton Hogan industries manager Peter Reid (left) and
regional manager Alan Peacock (centre, both of Alexandra),
show Luggate Community Association president Geoff Taylor
around the site earmarked for a proposed sludge-drying
facility near Luggate yesterday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Concerns linger over a proposed sludge-drying facility
near Luggate, with more assurances being sought from those
behind the project.
At a Luggate Community Association meeting on Thursday
evening, residents said inadequate information had been
provided on Project Groundswell - a proposal to build a
sludge-drying facility on the Luggate-Tarras highway and
apply the fertiliser produced from it to neighbouring land.
Project partners Fulton Hogan and the Queenstown Lakes
District Council needed to ''find the right answers'' to a
series of questions posed by the association's subcommittee
tasked with investigating the proposal, member Cyril Coombe
The subcommittee has met weekly to research the European
solar-drying process that would be used at the Luggate
facility, the first of its kind in New Zealand, and it
reported its initial findings to this week's meeting.
It said there was a ''strong desire'' to ensure alternative
site options on council or Fulton Hogan land had been
independently evaluated, as the research indicated all other
similar facilities were located next to the sewage treatment
plant. The Project Groundswell facility would be 6km away
from Wanaka's Project Pure treatment plant, from which the
sludge would be carted.
The subcommittee had concerns over large variations in the
reported volume reduction of the sludge through the drying
process, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of
''It's not guaranteed that we're going to get the dehydration
... I think they're going to have real problems in the
winter,'' subcommittee member Judy Thompson said.
''Overall, the principle and the dehydrating, it sounds
really good, but we're just wanting to check it's going to
perform how they expect it to.''
The implications of applying the dried material to farmland
was still to be researched by the group.
''What's going to happen after it's dried? That's our bigger
fight,'' Mr Coombe said.
An independent evaluation of the entire proposal was
necessary, residents agreed.
QLDC senior communications adviser Michele Poole said the
council was talking to various organisations to source the
information requested by the community association, including
the Medical Officer of Health and other councils regarding
their own application of biosolids to land.
ESR scientist Dr Jacqui Horswell, leader of the
government-funded Centre for Integrated Biowaste Research,
said the proposal presented an ''extremely low'' health risk.
Project Groundswell would manufacture a grade A biosolid
that, under national guidelines for the safe application of
biosolids to land, was considered ''safe to be handled'' and
pathogen-free, she said.
The project's resource consent would stipulate the material
could not be applied to land if it was not grade A standard.
''There's never any absolute absence of risk but, in terms of
risk reduction, then the grade A is the best you can get,''
Dr Horswell said.
''I am comfortable with what they're [Project Groundswell]
doing in terms of the grade A and the process works well. To
the best of our science knowledge, the risks are minimal.''
She acknowledged the use of biosolids had long been a
''But we have to look at it in the context of sustainability
and what else do we do with it? We landfill it? Well, that's
not sustainable; we're creating greenhouse gases and
leachates etc ... if you look at in terms of sustainable
living, the most sensible thing to do is put it on land.
''Scientifically, the risk is the same with any other
compost, but social-culturally it is viewed differently and
those things have to be talked about until the community's
comfortable with it.''
Fulton Hogan Central Otago regional manager Alan Peacock
confirmed the company had commercial arrangements with
adjacent landowners for the use of the dried material, but
would not disclose any further details.
The resource consent applications for Project Groundswell
were likely to be lodged within a month, he said.