Neighbour keeping windows closed as Queenstown poo pond stink lingers

by Kim Bowden - Dec 14, 2023

Urgent repair work continues at Queenstown's wastewater treatment plant as the stench remains so bad in recent days one neighbour has been keeping his windows closed and another, looking to book would-be guests into accommodation elsewhere.

A spokesperson for the Queenstown Lakes District Council says while one fault at the Shotover facility was fixed last week the team "is working with haste" to sort another issue.

However, the spokesperson says the repairs are "now mostly completed".

So, what about that smell?

"Whilst it’s difficult to say how long it will take for the biological process to stabilise and for all odour to dissipate, significant progress has been made and the community should notice things improving," the spokesperson says.

Both the onsite operational team and specialist contractors have been on the job since early last week, when it became obvious things there were not working as they should to deal with the town's sewage.

The problem is with the plant's de-watering equipment and aeration grids.

"Although the plant has remained operational throughout, this has impaired the normal biological process that treats sludge which has in turn caused the odour," the council spokesperson says.

"The team successfully completed repairs to the de-watering system last week and is working with haste to address issues with the aeration grids and return the process to normal as quickly as possible.

"We then need to give the bacteria that treats the wastewater time to do its thing."

The spokesperson says the issues were "unforeseen", and apologises for what they acknowledge to be an "unpleasant time for local residents and businesses".

One Quail Rise resident Crux spoke with today says he is "a bit fed up with it".

The wastewater treatment facility is located close to the Shotover River and can be seen from the Shotover Bridge on State Highway Six leading into Queenstown.

"I can't imagine what overseas guests are thinking when they drive past," the resident says.

"It (the smell) is better than it was a week ago but it's much worse than it usually is."

Earlier today, he and his mates wound the car windows up as they drove past the plant; yesterday, because the way the wind was blowing, he kept the windows and doors at home shut.

He says he hasn't seen much visible sign of crews working at the treatment plant, but has been ringing the council regularly for updates. 

Meanwhile another local resident this week contacted Crux concerned about what appeared to be largely raw sewage being channeled into a pond at the end of the site, close to the river.

A pond at the Shotover Wastewater Treatment Plant, December 6, 2023.

He is a regular walker on the track that travels past the plant and thought it seemed unusual.

Asked by Crux for an explanation of what this reader was seeing, the council spokesperson says "the temporary issues with the equipment and normal biological process mentioned above have caused a decrease in the normal quality of treated effluent passing into – and visible at – the disposal field".

However, their reassurance: "All wastewater entering the Shotover Wastewater Treatment Plant is treated prior to being discharged to the environment".

They say as work is ongoing the council does not yet have a total cost for implementing the required urgent fix, nor can they comment on any potential breach of resource consent conditions due to the fault.

"We’re working closely with ORC, keeping relevant officers updated and providing any information requested," the spokesperson says.

The Otago Regional Council has confirmed it is investigating the site to determine any breach of air discharge rules but will not comment further while this work is undertaken.

Otago Regional compliance manager Tami Sargeant says her team is receiving daily updates from the QLDC and "is satisfied that that this odour issue continues to improve".

The fault unrelated to ongoing upgrades underway at the treatment plant to improve wastewater capacity in the district.

In October, Crux reported on unpleasant smells in the vicinity of the plant as a result of this work.

The council is spending $35.4 million on the upgrade.



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