Fonterra environmental bullies | The Jackal

21 May 2012

Fonterra environmental bullies

On Saturday, the Manawatu Standard reported:

Emotions have run high at the Fonterra Pahiatua plant's discharge consent hearing, with one submitter breaking down in tears as he told how he had seen the Mangatainoka River decline over his lifetime.

Fonterra wants to discharge 2250 cubic metres of condensate into the Mangatainoka River for the next 22 years.

They're actually wanting resource consent to discharge 2,250 cubic metres per day (2,250 m3/day), so that works out to be 17.6 million cubic metres in 22 years, which is a shit load.

It currently discharges into the Brechin Stream, which flows into the Mangatainoka, but is asking at a hearing in Palmerston North for permission to discharge directly into the river.

The water in the Brechin Stream, considered a valuable trout spawning area, is degraded with sewage fungus caused by the current discharge.

Fonterra said the discharge would have less effect on the environment if it had the larger mixing area of the river. Horizons Regional Council environmental scientist Logan Brown stated in his evidence to the hearing yesterday that the fungus prevented fish from laying eggs.

Pahiatua resident and submitter Ross Gillespie said he had watched trout numbers dwindle in the stream for many years. He remembered watching multitudes of juvenile fish swimming through the water when he was a child.

"You're lucky to find any now," said Mr Gillespie, before breaking down in tears. Corina Jordon, environmental officer with Wellington Fish and Game, said the Mangatainoka River was a significant and popular trout fishery that was affected by pollution and high water takes.

She said the river regularly breached nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved oxygen limits, all of which affected aquatic life.

I enjoy watching Rural Delivery in the weekends. They've been running stories recently about developments in effluent treatment systems, and this made me hopeful that we might finally see a reduction in the amount of farm pollution going into New Zealand waterways.

That's why it's disappointing to see stories like the one above, as I've also witnessed the degradation of our waterways due to farming, which unfortunately impacts directly on one of my favourite leisure-time activities... Fishing.

But what really gets my goat about this is that the Fonterra Pahiatua consent application (PDF) states that effluent can be discharged when wet weather events make the discharge of condensate to land unsustainable, even if the River is below median flow rate. That means there is no adherence to dilution rates, which will mean more nitrogen, phosphorus, particulate organic matter and dissolved oxygen in the water, and less fish.

The problem here is one of money, whereby the technology is available to reduce if not completely mitigate the environmental damage caused by farming to our waterways (90% of lowland waterways are too polluted to swim in)... it's simply far more cost effective for farmers to just dump cow shit into our fisheries. What a bunch of environmental bullies!