News & Events

Hazardous chemical spills double in 2018

Sunday February 24 2019

Palmerston North City Council is calling on businesses to let us know urgently if you have a hazardous waste spill.

Photo shows slick of oil floating on the surface of of water at the wastewater treatment plant.

This oil arrived at the wastewater treatment plant in January, where it was decontaminated by Council staff.

Last year we investigated 13 incidents of hazardous chemical spills into our waterways and sewage networks. In 2017 there were only seven.

The first spill for 2019 occurred in late January. The spill was only identified staff at the wastewater treatment plant noticed oil. It took them four hours to remove the contaminants and cost Council in excess of $3,500.

The most common spills in 2018 were diesel and oil. On average our staff spend at least two hours cleaning them up.

Council's Chief Infrastructure Officer, Tom Williams, says these substances can cause significant issues.

“When hazardous materials enter the wastewater system they can cause thousands of dollars of damage, as they coat the pipes and filters and kill bacteria that are designed to treat our water from our drains at homes. If these products get into our street drains it ends up straight in the river and can wipe out fish and plant life.”

He says the community deserves a big thank you for being so vigilant about reporting potential spills.

“It’s great that our community are so proactive and I’d continue to ask that if residents see oil, foam, or discoloured water in our rivers and streams, or if the water smells like petrol or diesel, that they call the council immediately.”

Businesses need to do the same thing, and work to contain the spill. Businesses with oil and grit interceptors must empty and clean their traps at least once every six months. Businesses also need to have an emergency management plan and kit on-site to contain any spill.

If businesses have a spill and alert Council they will be charged a clean-up fee. The fee will likely be considerably smaller if we're alerted immediately, as we can prevent and contain the contamination before it has a chance to affect large parts of the wastewater treatment plant or networks.