Imagine the stink

Whanganui District Council has been battling a stench from its sewage treatment plant.

The solution on Friday was to pump raw sewage out to sea.

Imagine the stink if a dairy farmer did that.

I am not suggesting that dumping dairy effluent in the sea, or any other waterway, would be acceptable, just pointing out the double standard.

Farmers have been prosecuted for ponding of effluent which could enter a water way while councils get away with deliberately pumping raw sewage into rivers and the sea.

26 Responses to Imagine the stink

  1. robertguyton says:

    That’s a mighty big buffalo-chip you’ve got on your shoulder there, Ele!


  2. homepaddock says:

    You think pumping raw sewage into the sea is okay?


  3. TraceyS says:

    Isn’t that a bit early to say, Ele? The Council may face some repercussions, as they must have consents which surely don’t allow for this sort of action.


  4. robertguyton says:

    Ele – I’ve fought the practice of putting sewerage into water for years now. Councils reflect the wants of the people with regard sewerage treatment. People demand flush toilets. Emergency ‘dumps’ like the one you describe are but one result of that ‘nice to have’ behaviour.
    The sooner we move to soil-based treatment of humanure, the better.
    Dry milking sheds would be the equivalent in the farming world. Water and sh*t shouldn’t be mixed.


  5. homepaddock says:

    I agree. There is at least one farm in Southland with a dry milking shed which has a colony of tiger worms making compost from manure. I have heard nothing but good reports on it.


  6. TraceyS says:

    “People demand flush toilets…..Water and sh*t shouldn’t be mixed.”

    So what’s your alternative for getting the sh*t to flow Robert?

    Or will it be tiger worms in the home dunny…


  7. robertguyton says:

    compost toilets

    Have I made myself clear?


  8. TraceyS says:

    You’re on the wrong Council. Good luck with the campaign on that one… 🙂


  9. Annette Main says:

    Just so you know the WDC consent allows for emergency situations, just as a dairy farmer can have breakdown of equipment and in consultation with the Regional Council release effluent so too can other consent holders. Interestingly the cause of the need to temporarily bypass the plant was an overload of hydrogen sulphide from our tannery which bypassed their own pre-treatment plant.
    Whanganui has spent $120 million taking our untreated waste out of the river and sea, with no subsidy from anywhere, and a huge debt to prove it, do you really think this kind of decision is taken lightly?
    Robert is right, the sooner everyone thinks about the effects of the waste we are producing the better.


  10. homepaddock says:

    Thanks for giving us the fact, Annette. For anyone who doesn’t know, Annette is WDC mayor.


  11. TraceyS says:

    I’d be happy with a composting toilet as Robert suggests. They make a lot of sense and generally fit with my values.

    But our neighbours might not want one and I can’t tell them what to do. That would not usually be a problem, each to their own and all that. We are only responsible for our own waste right?
    Well, not in this case. You see, the overflow from numerous neighbour’s septic tanks flows (or more often seeps) into our paddocks in an area that is reasonably residential. And then there is farm runoff from hundreds of hectares of neighbouring farmland.

    At a party a few months ago I had an informal chat with an experienced barrister who works in this area and asked him if we would have a problem with proposed regional plan changes etc. His answer was “I suspect you will”. Now you might expect a lawyer to say that but the response still worries me.

    What are the choices? Should I be on the back of an uncooperative, dismissive, evasive, and broke city council to ask them to address the lack of infrastructure? Maybe I should be getting up in arms with my neighbours who really should be making different choices? Hmmm, battling with a council who will do ANYTHING to avoid responsibility and getting offside with all our neighbours don’t seem very wise strategies – even if I had the time to deal with the issue.

    If only it were as simple as everyone swapping their toilet for a composting one and cutting their fertilizer and stock levels – solutions that both Robert and Viv suggest. It’s not that easy. Just imagine if I were to go around my neighbourhood knocking on doors and telling people how they should run their lives and their farms! How would I be received? And meanwhile we sit back and wait for the day we will be told by some “authority” that we are breaking the law by discharging contaminated water. Then, I guess, we will have no choice but to start pointing the finger.

    My solution (excuse pun), which Robert unkindly referred to as “self-interested bombastification” was the construction of a wetland area to encourage biological breakdown of contaminants, in effect accepting others’ use of our land as a sewerage/runoff treatment station. But this would be an enormous cost to us because the RMA and consent process gives no special status to such projects and it would cost an arm and a leg just to get permission. No matter that the environmental outcomes would be extremely positive.

    Might as well save up for the legal battle instead. Is this really how we want our communities to be? Landowners, neighbours, authorities, at each other’s throats over who is to blame all the time?


  12. robertguyton says:

    Lead by example, Tracey. get a compost toilet.


  13. TraceyS says:

    …. and they’ll follow like sheep. Yeah right!


  14. robertguyton says:

    You are making weak excuses for not doing the right thing, Tracey. I thought you valued individual choice and self-motivation. Sounds like you are one of those sheep…


  15. TraceyS says:

    No Robert. I am only half of the decision-making team in my household. The other half preferred to do good things with the greywater from our septic tank instead. That’s compromise of the sort that makes a 25-year relationship last.

    Unfortunately our neighbours don’t have the same choices because they have a lot less land. So as always Robert, big or small, what is good for one is not always good for all (no matter what the issue you are dealing with).


  16. jabba says:

    good grief .. more and more people are living in high-rise buildings, I wonder how a compost dunny will work there.


  17. TraceyS says:

    Hmmm. Something like the “equivalent of dry milking sheds” is what Robert suggested. I still can’t see how the sh*t will get to the shed.

    Makes sense to me to mix water with it to get it flowing down the pipes.


  18. robertguyton says:

    You are quite wrong about this, Tracey. Disposal of humanure to soil is essential. Mixing it with water is irresponsible and shameful. You are behind the play on this one.


  19. robertguyton says:

    It works perfevtly well in a high-rise building, Jabba. They were installed on the third floor of AUT for example.


  20. robertguyton says:

    No. It makes no sense at all, Tracey. Water and sh*t should be kept separate. You view is a ‘primative’ one, I’m sorry to say.
    *Clue: it doesn’t need to flow down pipes.


  21. TraceyS says:

    And your view is an untested one, in pursuit of which you are prepared to “shame” 99.9%ish of the population just because they flush their loo.

    “The document says the existing toilet “fails to achieve its main objective, there are no signs of composting activity and significant odors are occurring.” ” (

    Note that these toilets are in a park, not in a high-rise building.

    A possible explanation for the lack of composting activity is the rising level of pharmaceutical drugs ingested and excreted by people, see “Dosed without Prescription” ( Bacteria are knocked about by that sort of thing.

    None of the recommendations in the above report suggest composting toilets are the answer. Of course they would only serve to hugely complicate the issue because there is no control over what goes down the chute and where the resultant waste is put. Your mass rollout of composting loos will need masses of regulation and bureaucracy to go along with it. This would directly affect every single person at an individual (and very intimate) level.

    In the end you will be replacing a problem with a problem. The councils will love it though. Because it would take the problem off their backs and put it onto individuals. Some of whom won’t carry it very responsibly. Admit it Robert, we’re not all saints like you…


  22. robertguyton says:

    “A possible explanation for the lack of composting activity is the rising level of pharmaceutical drugs ingested and excreted by people, see “Dosed without Prescription” ( Bacteria are knocked about by that sort of thing.”

    Back on the DCD issue I see.

    Tracey, Tracey, Tracey. All you have done is searched out some instances where compost toilets haven’t worked in order to support your already-set view that they won’t work as a replecement for the flushers you love so much. This is terribly disappointing from someone who has pretended to respect science and innovation. They do say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and this stubborn resistance from you seems the perfect illustration of that.


  23. TraceyS says:

    Read the article Robert. Drugs in the environment is an issue now with present systems. This article is not biased against composting systems. I just think that it makes sense to centralise the collection of wastes where they can be treated appropriately, rather than to have thousands of collections all over the place where they will be difficult to control.

    Reflecting on the original post and the comment from Annette Main makes me wonder why you are using this as an opportunity to promote your personal choice of toilet. After all the discharge was prompted by what sounds like an industrial mishap, not the normal daily activities of people.

    Science and innovation relies on acceptance and uptake. I am merely reflecting the type of widespread resistance you would encounter anywhere.


  24. robertguyton says:

    “Reflecting on the original post and the comment from Annette Main makes me wonder why you are using this as an opportunity to promote your personal choice of toilet.”

    Ok then, I’ll stop.


  25. Mr E says:

    I dont like to see contrasts drawn between farmers and the public around effluent management. It creates a divide between the parties and which tends to divert from the issue. We townies are polluters and we need to improve. At least that is my view. I for one would be willing to pay more for urban effluent management to be improved. I hope our councils recognise a willingness by the public to spend more here. Perhaps diversion of funds would be more approriate given the current level of rates.
    Encouraging all people to use compost toilets would rightly cause other issues including heavy metal contaminants requiring public management which is risky.


  26. TraceyS says:

    Robert, you might have heard of the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) concept. Maybe you even helped devise it. One of the key issues it identifies in recycling is that frequently “technical” and “organic” components are combined together in a product. For waste to equal food, these components must be separated.

    This is where true waste lies – in compounds where one ingredient or other makes other valuable components totally useless without separation. The trap with composting toilets is to think that humanure is completely “organic”. It’s not, and that problem isn’t going away.

    Just how does a composting toilet separate technical (ie. synthetic, often toxic) components from organic ones?

    Most drugs are water-soluble, so mixing the waste with water (at some point in the process) will help separate them from organic solids. This will still happen when dry compost is put on a garden when it rains. But where are the water-soluble pharmaceuticals going to go?

    Viagra on your veges anyone? Eww!

    Think hard, Robert. Do you really want this?


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