Court action over sewage discharge

The flooded Waiho River rages through the Scenic Hotel at Franz Josef Glacier in March 2016. Photo: Greymouth Star
The flooded Waiho River rages through the Scenic Hotel at Franz Josef Glacier in March 2016. Photo: Greymouth Star
The Westland District Council faces court action by the West Coast Regional Council over the discharge of raw sewage into the Waiho River bed at Franz Josef Glacier.

The regional council has had the Westland council on watch for several years over the non-complying Franz Josef wastewater treatment plant.

The matter escalated after a flash flood in the Waiho River in April 2016 washed through the once grand THC Scenic Hotel at Franz Josef, and also sent floodwater and gravel through the nearby sewerage ponds.

Seven charges were due to be read in the Greymouth District Court yesterday but the Westland council has sought an adjournment until November 28 to indicate a plea.

The charges include four of contravening the national environmental standards under the West Coast Regional Council regional plan by disturbing the dry riverbed of the Waiho River between February 14 and March 20.

According to court documents, the regional council found out about the alleged disturbance to the dry riverbed on March 2.

The WDC also faces two counts of discharging wastewater - namely human excrement - into the dry riverbed, and another of illegal discharge from the wastewater plant into the river.

The maximum fine which could be imposed by the court is $600,000 per charge - or $4.2million if all seven were proved.

The council is past an Environment Court deadline - extended three times - to replace or bring the damaged ponds up to full compliance following the initial notice in 2016.

The regional council served an abatement notice earlier this year on the WDC after it found wastewater was being discharged from a treatment pond into an open trench dug straight on to the adjacent riverbed.

The council has lodged application to upgrade the current scheme, to be commissioned and signed off by the end of April 2019.

West Coast Regional Council consents and compliance manager Heather McKay said yesterday the council was working through the application, pending a decision on whether it would be publicly notified for a hearing. 

-By Brendon McMahon

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