Palmerston North’s Totara Rd wastewater treatment plant will need a major overhaul.
Analyzing options for future Palmerston North wastewater treatment and disposal could point city council in the opposite direction of what the community and iwi want.
The council will launch a public consultation on five options in April, before making a $ 350 million decision on how to stop its release that is hurting the Manawatū River.
But advisers are frustrated that they were unable to read more than 1,100 public responses collected in a series of informal engagements last year.
A summary of these submissions indicated that disposing of wastewater to soil was the most popular option.
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Discharge into the Manawatū River after greatly improved treatment was the next most popular, followed by a few hybrid options combining land and river discharges.
There was some support for an ocean release, but iwi opposed it.
But after a “multi-criteria assessment”, river and oceanic discharges are at the top of the list of the most probable solutions.
Cr Brent Barrett said he was very concerned that advisers had not been able to read the submissions received so far.
“We now have a report pointing to three options, while the most strongly supported community option, for most of the discards to go ashore, is not in the top three, and we have one option that did not receive that 6% support. “
Transport and infrastructure manager Robert van Bentum said the planned discharge of the river would require the highest level of treatment of all options.
In the case of land or oceanic discharges, it would be the receiving environment that would provide the final stage of treatment.
If the treated wastewater went into the river, 90 percent of the contaminants would have been removed first.
“There is no option that does not include certain releases to water. It must be a compromise.
“And going ashore for 97% of the wastewater is not feasible due to the huge footprint and effects on productive land in the region.”
Cr Renee Dingwall said it was disappointing that the advisers didn’t see the community’s comments for themselves.
Infrastructure chairman Vaughan Dennison said he was struggling to understand why an ocean spill was still in the mix after negative comments from the iwi and likely costs exceeding council budgets.
He said that the “multi-criteria assessment” which proposed the three most likely options appeared to be “more of an art form than a science”.
Van Bentum said choosing an option was more complex than having a vote, and councilors would have to decide how much weight to give community values and other considerations.
While councilors complain about the lack of access to public submissions, residents have also been barred from finding out much of what councilors have said about options.
Most of their work on the process has been carried out in workshops that are not open to the public or the media.
Things the request for briefing materials and notes taken at one of these key workshops in September was refused, and a complaint to the ombudsperson has yet to be investigated.
The council will seek an extension of at least one month to inform the Horizons Regional Council of what it believes is the best possible option, beyond its June 1 deadline.