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Timber plants must upgrade systems

Timber plants must upgrade systems

Rotorua timber processing companies, which are polluting stormwater during heavy rain, are putting unacceptable pressure on waterways and Lake Rotorua.

Because of this, Environment Bay of Plenty has set a firm timeline of six months for upgrades of stormwater disposal systems at four sites in the Rotorua area.

Regulation and monitoring committee chairman Ian Noble acknowledges that much of the contamination is from historic sources. Upgrade work can also be extremely costly, especially on older timber treatment plants. But it has to be done because the city’s stormwater flows into Lake Rotorua, he says. “We know the industry is very aware of the issue and we realise it poses huge financial challenges for them. However, we must ensure local industries do not continue to put pressure on the lake.”

A recent report to the council’s regulation and monitoring committee highlighted the situation in Rotorua particularly. The report examined the compliance of 17 timber treatment sites in the Bay of Plenty over the past five years. Five sites graded high while eight had moderate compliance. Three sites received poor ratings, all in Rotorua.

Environmental compliance officer John Holst says the main problems have been with levels of suspended solids, copper and chromium. Mr Holst described the compliance results as disappointing. However, many sites have made substantial improvements in that time, which should be reflected in the next compliance report.

A new testing regime, which checks stormwater quality during rainfall events, had “lifted the bar” for many companies, he points out. Staff will update councillors on compliance within the industry in February next year. Initially, the update was scheduled for next August.

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