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Falling short: review of contractor’s failures with sewage treatment plants

News from Wellington Water
Wellington Water’s Chief Executive Colin Crampton has today announced an independent review of the organisation’s operating model with Veolia, which is responsible for running all the wastewater treatment plants in the metropolitan Wellington region.

Mr Crampton says the review has been initiated following 10 warnings, infringement, and abatement notices across wastewater operations since May 2020, including a dry weather sludge discharge on 19 August from the Porirua Wastewater Treatment Plant that was identified by the community.

“Veolia did not notify us of this incident – they should have. This incident, and the ones before it, highlighted to us that action is needed now,” says Mr Crampton.

“Our role is to be a steward of water. This means we take care of water and the environment. We take this responsibility seriously and maintain high standards of ourselves and our operator to reduce the environmental impact of our operations.”

Wellington Water has been working with Veolia to improve their performance over the last 12 months with the intent of reviewing the operating model and arrangements at the end of the year.

“The public expects that wastewater, collected from houses and businesses, to be fully treated before it is put in the ocean. Unfortunately, these notices and incident are an indication that the wastewater treatment plants are not being operated to a standard that we would expect, which is why we’re initiating the review now,” says Mr Crampton.

Porirua mayor Anita Baker has welcomed the review, saying she is frustrated and disappointed to hear of Veolia’s stewardship at the Porirua Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“I welcome a vigorous review wholeheartedly and look forward to the findings. Porirua City Council and our community expect all our facilities to adhere to robust operating and reporting standards,” she says.

“I’d like to assure the Titahi Bay community and the Our Bay Our Say group that the Council has heard them, and these actions being taken we hope will lead to a safer and healthier Te Awarua-o-Porirua Harbour.”

In addition to the independent review, Wellington Water will also be looking at a more robust reporting framework for notifying the public of discharges and bypasses.

“We recognise that the public and our communities have a right to know when these incidents take place and we want to be more open and transparent about the performance of our wastewater treatment plants,” says Mr Crampton.

The independent review will be led by Roly Frost and Raveen Jaduram is expected to be completed by the end of December 2021. Wellington Water is working with its council owners on who will make up the governance of the panel. Details of this will be announced in the coming weeks.

Wellington Water will also ask the independent review panel to take a further look into the Porirua Wastewater Treatment Plant’s operations and performance. While the review is taking place, the treatment plant consent application will be paused.

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