Sewage leak gets noses out of joint
A foul-smelling situation has been wafting around one of Mangawhai’s established holiday destinations, reeking dispute, hostility and leaving a pungent scent in the air.
Raw sewage has been intermittently leaking out of Mangwhai Holiday Park’s waste system and seeping onto bordering properties.
Immediate neighbours to the Park, Isabel and Brian Hollis, who bought the property over six years ago and were unaware of the problem at the time of purchase, say they continuously rang Northland Regional Council [NRC] over the years, ‘to complain about the terrible smell’.
“This has been going on for the whole time we have owned our home, and I am told by the previous owners of the cottage it was happening when they lived here,” Isabel says. “As the camp grew, the system appeared to not cope… we then noticed leakage starting to come through last year.”
The Hollis’ decided then to put their concerns into writing and have had numerous correspondence with NRC.
In an initial email to the Council in April 2015, Brian Hollis states ‘The [campgrounds] treatment plant does not operate in a safe and sanitary way and continues to cause problems. In heavy rains it can be seen to get into our drainage system and hence into the estuary. The camp has reclaimed and built up land which now makes it impossible for the water overflow to go anywhere but pond on our land’.
Effluent has also seeped through the mortar between the blocks of the holding tank. While the NRC and the Mangawhai Holiday Park owners have made some progress to fix the leaks by sealant applied on the outside, the Hollis’ say the actual construction of the tank allows the sewage to go under the holding tanks into the ground and that the system will never work.
Seepage still continues with heavy downpours and Isabel has recent photos ‘of sewage pouring out’ of the holding unit.
“The smell was just atrocious… unfortunately we have to walk past it several times a day and it is not acceptable. I can’t let my grandchildren or dogs down around that part of the garden… and some plants in the area have died. Whether it’s a source of the contamination, I don’t know.”
In July this year the Hollis’ had renewed hope the smelly issue would finally come to an end when the Park owners confirmed they will be fixing the problems after being issued an abatement notice by NRC. The Hollis’ discovered a submersible hose pumping wastewater into the storm water drain which also ran into the neighbour’s section and their own property.
“We got hold of NRC who came straight down,” Isabel says. “Obviously what they tested was contaminated because they got served the notice and had to rectify the problem within five working days.”
NRC also charged three people including the camp manager and contractors with infringement notices for the laying of the pump.
Conditions of the abatement notice included further sealing of the unit, reinstating the fence which was removed to allow access for repairs and filling in the drain around the sewage system.
However the Hollis’ optimism has been flushed away as, to date, the fence remains only partially built and waste is still leaching from under the tank.
“They’ve filled the drain around the tank but not the drain in the campground so when it rains, it still fills up and seeps effluent back onto our place,” she says.
Dispute over the replacement fence has also ensued with the Park owners insisting the Hollis’ pay half the cost of the new wooden fence that Isabel says they do not even want.
“With fencing you just have to put back what you took down so I said to just put the old wire and waratah fence back,” she says. “But the owner said it was a load of rubbish anyway.”
Isabel also says while the campground managers have ‘bent over backwards’ to try to rectify the problem, the two Auckland businessmen owners have been uncooperative.
Tempers have flared over the situation with Brian allegedly being verbally abused by some of the Park’s residents.
“They reckon he’s stirring the pot… I guess they have been fed different information by the owners about the situation,” she says.
To make the malodorous situation worse, despite being capable of connecting to the sewage system, NRC has granted the Park a further ten year extension for their sewage system. The Hollis’ own connection to the new town wastewater system is on hold until the campground connects but are already being charged maintenance and capable-of-connection fees on their rates.
“It’s another $800 a year for something the council can’t give a timeframe for putting us on,” Isabel says. “I don’t know how the Park got resource consent... it doesn’t work properly anyway!”
Kaipara Commissioner, John Robertson, and NRC Councillor, Craig Brown, have both viewed the site of the ongoing leakage and admit the situation is not good enough. The Hollis’ say Robertson is taking it up with the NRC as ‘they are responsible’.
In a statement, NRC Acting Water and Waste Monitoring Manager, Joey McKenzie, says after the initial site inspection in June 2015 the council has continued to monitor the situation and the necessary repairs.
“Council staff have visited the site eight times in 2016 and no evidence of unauthorised leaks from the wastewater system was confirmed other than the leaks to the sand filter which have now ceased,” he says.
“We have received other reports of the remaining wastewater system leaking during high rainfall, however, these reports have not been confirmed and the reported ponding appears to be storm water only. Nevertheless, the council will continue to monitor the site.”
McKenzie also says the replacement resource consent allowing for the Park’s discharge of treated wastewater-to-land, was granted by the NRC in April 2012 and has to comply with multiple consent conditions.
“It does not authorise any discharges via leakage from the sand filter… and while the regional council has no power to revoke resource consents under the Resource Management Act, if unauthorised leaks of wastewater occur again, then the council can take further action including formal enforcement.”
He goes on to say that the amount of wastewater the campground currently discharges is still within the consent limits even though the number of residents and visitors may have increased.
“Connection of the camp’s wastewater system to the Mangawhai sewage scheme is primarily a matter between Mangawhai Park and Kaipara District Council,” Mackenzie says. “It is currently not mandatory that onsite wastewater treatment systems in Mangawhai must be connected to the town’s sewage scheme.”
* The owners of Mangawhai Holiday Park were contacted and offered an opportunity to share their views but at time of print had yet to reply. Management staff have opted to give no comment.
DRAMA: Isabel Hollis stands next to the ground where effluent has seeped from the controversial leaky holding tank and the disputed fence with planks ready for completion.
“The smell was just atrocious… unfortunately we have to walk past it several times a day and it is not acceptable. I can’t let my grandchildren or dogs down around that part of the garden… .”
- Isabel Hollis