Breaking News - FNDC plans to fast-fill Russell landfill

24-11-2008

Following a meeting with representatives of the Russell Protection Society and Russell Ratepayers & Citizens Association, the FNDC has issued this press release to announce its plans to use the Russell landfill to dump up to 1000 tonnes of District waste a month from the southern area of the Far North.

We are horrified by this proposal and are now researching the issue, including obtaining legal advise.

The FNDC is currently using the solid waste facility in Redvale at Auckland to dispose of most of the District's waste, in the absence of properly planned landfills up here.

The only rationale behind this new idea to fast-fill the Russell landfill by bringing in 2-4 big trucks per day over the car ferry onto this sensitive peninsula is the increased fees for dumping at Redvale.

One year of dumping this extra rubbish will reduce the life of the Russell landfill by a third. Thus after three years our tip would reach capacity and have to be closed. At that stage we would be dependant on a transfer station that will collect our rubbish and then incur the expense of trucking it to either Auckland or Whangarei.

We are advised that a new, very large landfill has been given resource consent at Puwera, 10km South of Whangarei. This is designed to take all refuse of the Far North and Whangarei for the next 75 years.

It is claimed that this facility will be operational in other 2 years, however experience with every other landfill that has been set up demonstrates that delays are inevitable and that it could be many years before the new landfill is properly functioning. The FNDC is therefore not able to give the Russell community any guarantees as to how long they will dump more than half of the district's rubbish at our tip.

Modern landfills such as the planed Puwera or the Redvale facility are designed to deal with the long term effects of rubbish disposal. For instance, Redvale is situated over impermeable rock so that leachate does not peculate down to the water table. The Russell landfill is situated on greywacke, which is porous. Also, at Redvale methane gas is also collected to control greenhouse gas emissions and used, in part, to power the facility.

The leachate of the Russell landfill is partially collected and pumped into the Russell sewerage plant to be treated. Generally leachate has a high biochemical oxygen demand and high concentrations of organic carbon, nitrogen, chloride, iron, manganese and phenols. Sometimes other chemicals may be present, including pesticides, solvents and heavy metals.

These latter types of pollutants cannot be successfully treated by the current Russell Sewerage plant and, in some cases, these contaminants can serve to inhibit the biological processes employed at our treatment plant. The household refuse currently collected on the peninsula is less toxic than the industrial waste coming from other commercial and industrial parts of the our District.

We think it is simply crazy to add more of these contaminants to our sewerage plant than is necessary, increasing the possibility of failure and limiting our solid waste disposal options for the future. This is particularly concerning, given the proximity of feral and commercial shellfish beds at Uruti and Orongo Bays.

The current Resource Consent for our tip did not envisage the type and rate of waste disposal that the FNDC now proposes. Otherwise we would have strongly objected to that application. These effects include increased volume of leachate and discharges to air, such as increased odour, that will be created. Having huge rubbish trucks sitting on the ferry in the middle of a hot summer will be off putting for tourists.

The FNDC business case in this instance needs to be published and critically examined to see that it fairly reflects both the immediate costs avoided and the longer term costs of reducing Russell’s self sufficiency in waste management into the future. There appear to be many factors that have not been considered by FNDC and these include increased monitoring costs, environment risks and particularly the 'foregone opportunity costs'.

Scarcity of resources is one of the more basic concepts of economics. Scarcity necessitates trade-offs, and trade-offs result in an opportunity cost. While the cost of a good or service often is thought of in monetary terms, the opportunity cost of a decision is based on what must be given up (the next best alternative) as a result of the decision. Any decision that involves a choice between two or more options has an opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost contrasts to accounting cost in that accounting costs do not consider forgone opportunities. In this case the FNDC claims to be able to save $300k in the short term while apparently ignoring the financial, environmental and social costs to the Russell community in both the short and long term. This is especially so when our waste must be then trucked off the Peninsula in a situation when fuel costs in the future are likely to be much higher than they are now.

The FNDC must stop pretending that waste disposal can be done on the cheap, using a small rural dump such as ours with very limited capacity, and should take the initiative to properly plan and finance for waste reduction, recycling and disposal to environmentally sound landfills. At present the only environmentally sound option is to continue to dump at the Redvale landfill.

In summary, we think that the FNDC's plan to utilize a small country dump in a sensitive coastal location for a debatable short term financial saving, with longer term environmental, monitoring and remedial costs, is a very short-sighted, narrow and old fashioned approach. Our “Clean-Green” image will not be enhanced by disposing much of the Far North's waste at the gateway to our historic Township. The Russell community will not stand by and passively accept this economically and environmentally insane proposal.