22 August 2007

Environment Waikato has filed a charge against Te Kuiti Meat Processors Ltd in Te Kuiti District Court relating to an effluent spill that contaminated the town's water supply in March. 

Te Kuiti residents had to boil drinking water for several days after a sinkhole developed in the meatworks' effluent pond, allowing 500,000 litres of untreated waste to leak. 

"Although we regret having to take this step, this was a serious incident with a high profile and significant impact on an entire town for several days," Rob Dragten, Environment Waikato's complaints and enforcement manager, said. 

He said the failure of the pond was foreseeable and could have been provided against by the company. "Our investigation identified that the company had been aware for some time of the risks associated with the ongoing use of their effluent system and though steps were being taken to address the problems, it did not act promptly enough." 

Holding ponds at the company's Te Kuiti site ruptured in the early hours of March 10, allowing meat processing effluent to discharge into the Mangaokewa Stream. 

The effluent entered the Te Kuiti town water supply, which is fed by the stream. Mr Dragten said the company had made significant efforts to remedy the effects of the spill after it occurred.