10 August 2007

Water is being trucked into Warkworth while the town's water source recovers from a major diesel spill in the Mahurangi Stream. 

Auckland Region Council complaint response team leader Rowan Carter said residents alerted council to the 13,000-litre spill on Wednesday morning. 

The diesel came from Gubbs Motors, an auto workshop about 3km upstream from the township, Mr Carter said. 

It was still unclear how the fuel escaped. The spill happened upstream of the Warkworth water treatment plant, and the plant had been shut down as a precaution.

 The council was working with the plant to test the stream's water quality each day, and Mr Carter said he hoped the plant would be able to re-open within a matter of days, not weeks. 

In the meantime tankers were bringing water to a reservoir in Warkworth from Wellsford and Snells Beach to keep supplies going, but locals were being urged to use as little water as possible. 

Mr Carter said the diesel was being contained by inflatable river booms, and sucked off the surface of the stream by "sucker trucks" with portable vacuums. Some diesel was also evaporating, which was being helped by today's sunny weather.

Council staff had searched the river for wildlife which had been harmed by the spill. "We haven't come across any dead or dying birds; a couple we saw a few days back were partially oiled but they were fine. We've got mangroves down there too so we're keeping an eye on those." 

Mr Carter said the council was grateful for the calls it received to its water pollution hotline, which raised the initial alarm. "If we hadn't received those as early as we did it would have been hours before we got out there and put the booms up. You've got to praise the local residents of Warkworth - their prompt response has minimised the impact on the environment."