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NES to ensure wastewater systems are maintained

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister for the Environment

14 July 2008 Media Statement

NES to ensure wastewater systems are maintained

A proposed National Environmental Standard to improve the environmental performance of domestic on-site wastewater systems is out for public comment, Environment Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

On-site wastewater treatment systems treat household wastewater to varying levels before it is released back into the environment, and usually serve one household.

"Poorly maintained septic tanks, and other on-site wastewater systems, can affect human health and the environment," Trevor Mallard said.

“They can lead to lakes, rivers, estuaries and beaches becoming unfit for swimming, gathering seafood and marine farming. They can also cause sickness and disease in people from the effluent overflowing or ponding. The government recognises that reducing these risks is in the best interests of both the environment and the health of un-sewered communities.”

"Under the proposed standard, regional councils would identify the hotspot locations where owners of properties would be required to hold a current warrant of fitness that confirms their on-site system is functioning properly and is being maintained to an appropriate standard."

These areas may include:

• Locations with a history of problems with on-site wastewater disposal, identified through sanitary surveys or pollution hotline complaints or monitoring

• Areas identified in plans or strategies as locations for intensification of land use, long term growth or development, where sewage reticulation may not parallel development

• Communities with a high proportion of on-site systems that use shallow groundwater for drinking water

• Areas of highly seasonal occupation (relevant especially in attractive tourism spots) and not adequately designed on-site systems to cope with shock loads.

"Regular inspections and maintenance play a key role in improving the performance of on-site wastewater systems. This standard proposes that owners in the specified locations are required to have their systems inspected every three years by suitably qualified inspectors in order to renew a warrant of fitness.

The discussion document on the proposed National Environmental Standard for On-site Wastewater Systems is on, and the Ministry for the Environment will formally seek public submissions beginning on Saturday 19 July.


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