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Pan Pac cleared over handling of outfall leak

By Gavin Evans

March 20 (BusinessDesk) - Pan Pac Forest Products has been cleared over its handling of damage to its wastewater outfall off the coast north of Napier.

The company has spent six months trying to repair the 2.4 kilometre outfall, which began leaking near the shore in September. The waste water is treated prior to discharge but is not being mixed and diluted as quickly as would usually be the case.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chief executive James Palmer said the council closely considered its own enforcement policy, and the Solicitor-General’s guidelines on prosecution, before deciding not to prosecute the firm.

He said Pan Pac has consistently and regularly monitored the condition of the pipe, and since 2001 has had it inspected by divers 75 times. Previous signs of wear have been quickly repaired.

“No evidence of negligence by Pan Pac in their maintenance or operation of the pipe was identified and the breakage could not have been reasonably foreseen,” Palmer said in a statement.

“We acknowledge that the buried portion of the pipe has not been able to be inspected to date, but new technology means this is now possible and the regional council will be expecting Pan Pac to use that technology in the future to undertake regular inspections. This involves a robotic camera and sensors.”

Pan Pac, owned by Japan’s Oji Group, is one of Hawke’s Bay’s biggest employers. It has operated at Whirinaki for more than 40 years and produces about 830 tonnes of wood pulp a day. The company is also the country’s biggest producer of appearance-grade timber and processes about 430,000 cubic metres annually from Whirinaki about 50,000 cubic metres at Milburn in Otago.

In August, the company said the pipeline was operating normally after dive crews manually removed silt thrown up in storms in June. Almost a third of the outfall’s ports were blocked.

But a month later a leak was reported from a submerged part of the outfall about 70 metres from the road running along Whirinaki beach.

Repairs were attempted in December and January. A third approach is underway while the firm considers long-term options for replacing the original pipe.

The latest work has involved cutting two access points into the pipeline. The pipe will be cleaned internally, fibreglass patches installed over damaged areas, and a special imported liner installed.

Palmer said the council will continue to monitor the work and is keen to see, in the near-future, Pan Pac’s plans for a replacement.

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