Pollution watchdog tells council to stop Shotover sewage spill

by Kim Bowden - Jan 15, 2024

Partially treated sewage from Queenstown's poo ponds continues to flow unabated from the Shotover Wastewater Treatment Plant this afternoon as authorities attempt to figure out what has gone wrong and how to fix it.

Staff from the Otago Regional Council's pollution team are onsite at the Queenstown Lakes District Council-owned facility investigating the discharge.

ORC manager for compliance Tami Sargeant tells Crux her team has "verbally directed" the Queenstown Lakes District Council to "stop the overflow".

Partially treated sewage flows from an oxidation pond at the Shotover Wastewater Treatment Plant, Monday, January 15, 2024.

The flow from pond three at the problem-plagued facility has channeled out a path overland under a fence and across a road.

A stand of vegetation and wetland separates it from the Shotover River.

Crux understands two further treatment processes should take place between pond three and wastewater being discharged back into the environment.

Ms Sargeant says the QLDC notified the ORC of the overflow this morning.

In a statement this afternoon, QLDC property and infrastructure manager Simon Mason confirms the pond has breached and effluent has made its way to a "small section of natural swamp" nearby.

“Crews are currently onsite working to resolve the issue and determine exactly what has caused the pond to overtop.

“We’ve closed Shotover Delta Road as a precautionary measure as we make the necessary repairs.”

When Crux visited the site at 2.30pm, a Veolia contractor with a digger on the back of a truck was at the scene, but there was no change to the flow since a visit earlier in the day.

At an estimated minimum flow of three litres per second, more than 160,000 litres of sewage may have been illegally discharged since midnight.

Mr Mason says he thinks the flow has not reached the Shotover River.

Meanwhile Ms Sargeant says her team's priority is to "allow QLDC staff to focus their attention on remedial work" to address issues at the plant, however she has not ruled out compliance action.

Today's breach is the latest in a series of malfunctions at the council facility, but Mr Mason says it is unrelated to other ongoing repairs.

Shotover WWP sewage overflow Jan 15 from Crux on Vimeo.

Read more: Raw sewage spills from Queenstown treatment plant

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