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Sentencing in Kaputone Creek discharge of ammonia case


Guilty pleas and sentencing in Kaputone Creek discharge of ammonia case

Polarcold Stores Limited (which has since changed its name to Emergent Cold Ltd) and Russell Trent (an employee of Polarcold) were today fined a total of $242,350 after pleading guilty to charges of illegally discharging a contaminant, namely ammonia or ammonia contaminated water, to land in circumstances where it entered water, which is prohibited under the Resources Management Act (RMA).

The discharge originated from Polarcold’s site in Belfast and was a result of a purging tank overflowing with ammonia contaminated water. There was no secondary containment system in place to contain the overflow. The discharge then caused the nearby Kaputone Creek to become contaminated over a 5km stretch.

Environmental impact

An Ecological Impact Report confirmed that the 5km stretch had been adversely affected in a way that was “significant in scale”, including causing an almost complete fish kill along that length of creek. Around 1,780 dead fish were recovered, most of which were eels, both short and long fin, ranging in size and age.

Samples taken from the creek in the two days following the incident confirmed ammonia levels downstream of the discharge point of between 14-16 times higher than upstream of the discharge point.

Fortunately, there are no long-term adverse effects to vegetation or food sources, and fish stocks will replenish over time.


The offenders, Polarcold and Trent, have been ordered to pay $145,350 and $97,000, respectively. This takes into account a discount for good character and the early guilty plea.

Judge Brian Dwyer described the “devastating effect of the discharge on the aquatic life of the creek”, as well as acknowledging the affront to tangata whenua of the damage to the waterway and the taonga species within it.

Nadeine Dommisse, chief operating officer at Environment Canterbury, said: “We are extremely pleased that this matter has been resolved and that the result serves as a reminder of the weighty responsibility businesses have to protect the environment through best industry practice, and the potentially dire ecological consequences when those practices are not observed.

“It is also a reminder of the impact ill-considered use of our stormwater system can have on our precious environment, including protected species.”


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