Reconsenting of the Bell Island Wastewater Treatment Plant Wastewater Discharge
Dr Ngaire Phillips was appointed as an RMA Commissioner to a 3 person hearings panel considering an application for renewal of resource consents associated with the discharge of wastewater to the Waimea Inlet, Nelson from the Bell Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. Along with Ms Sharon McGarry (Chair) and John Iseli, Dr Phillips heard expert witness statements and submissions over a 3 day hearing. Her role was primarily focused on water quality. One of the issues of concern related to the resilience of the ecological communities of the Waimea Inlet and Tasman to the predicted increase in total nitrogen concentrations associated with population growth. The efficacy of the wastewater treatment plant to meet standards for human health was also questioned. Other issues included the concern expressed by iwi about the continued discharge to their “food basket”, as well as issues associated with odour, especially for the nearby Best Island community. There was also concern expressed as to the duration of the resource consent being requested by the applicant, with 35 years being considered too long by some submitters.
The hearings panel approved the discharge consents, with a reduced duration of 20 years. Consent conditions included a requirement to confirm the efficacy of the waste treatment process. The panel concluded that the assimilative capacity assessment of the Waimea Inlet downstream of the WWTP discharge and adjacent area of Tasman Bay, coupled with continued compliance with existing consent conditions for Total Nitrogen, indicated that there should be no increase in adverse effects on water column or sediment biota within these receiving environments.