The Guardians of the Lakes are asking tough questions about a planned new $12.2 million sewage treatment plant, and want to know if tourists could be landing in the middle of a sewage plant.
The guardians asked the questions at a meeting last week, about the Southland District Council’s plant. It will have three sewage maturation ponds and five 700m-diameter centre-pivot irrigators, will surround the newly redeveloped Te Anau-Manapouri airport and be near Kepler Mire, a wetland of international significance.
Southland District Council water and waste water services manager Justin Reid briefed the Guardians of Lakes Manapouri, Monowai and Te Anau on the project’s progress.
The council had a 10-year consent for Te Anau’s present sewage plant beside the Upukerora River, but that site was too close to Lake Te Anau and lay in a flood-risk zone.
The consent required the council to plan a better scheme by 2009 and have building under way by 2014.
That move had been driven, in part, by the Guardians’ concerns over possible pollution of Lake Te Anau.
After district-wide soil testing, experts had found the land beside the airport was best able to absorb treated effluent without adverse effects, Mr Reid said.
The town’s sewage would receive initial treatment in a much smaller pond at the old site, then would be piped to the new site where it would be treated further in ponds before being disposed of by sprinkling from big irrigators.
Experts had been “very excited” at the absorptive qualities of the airport ground beside the airport and were confident the treated sewage would have no effect beyond the site, he said.
Guardian Sue Bennett asked how tourists would feel if they knew they were landing in the middle of a sewage plant.
The effluent was not expected to smell and should not offend visitors or neighbours, Mr Reid said.
“What’s coming through the irrigators? It could be water. It’s a matter of perception.” The Te Anau sewage ponds would be landscaped and natural-looking. Mr Reid said no effluent would be allowed to flow out of the site, and if necessary the land would be re-shaped to keep it in.
The large scale of the $12.2 million plan allowed for a peak summer population of 40,000 people, compared to a 12,000 peak now.