Letter to the Northland Regional Council re landfill issue

02-12-2008

We sent this second letter to theNorthland Regional Council this morning.

Further to our telephone conversation, the Russell Protection Society wishes to lay a complaint about the dumping of 1000 tonnes of Far North District waste per month by the Far North District Council (FNDC) at the Russsell landfill. Our Society has received legal advice which suggests that such dumping is illegal and is contrary to provisions of the Resource Management Act. It was also noted that several Resource Consents pertaining to this facility have already expired.

In brief, the legal advice given to us notes that the supporting information provided for the original Resource Consent application indicated that the Russell landfill was intended to serve the needs of the Russell Peninsula. The actions by the FNDC to use the Russell landfill as essentially a district-wide facility by dumping waste from many parts of the Far North represents a new and different use to that which was originally consented for. The community of Russell was not aware of this new proposed use at the time the application was lodged and was therefore denied the opportunity to submit accordingly.

The proposed use of the Russell landfill is new in several respects. The proposed volume of dumping (1000tonnes per month) vastly exceeds the current rate of dumping by the Russell community. This, in turn, will result in a significant increase in the rate and type of leachate that must be disposed of both to ground and to the Russell Sewerage Treatment Plant. The nature of the leachate will also change. The community of Russell sorts the waste that it produces and places any hazardous or recyclable materials in separate areas to be disposed of elsewhere. On the other hand, many areas of the Far North do not sort their waste material and it is simply combined together for disposal. In addition, there are significant industrial and commercial businesses located in places such as Kerikeri/Waipapa. This will result in more and different pollutants entering the Russell Landfill waste stream and, ultimately the leachate. These include heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum distillates and other toxins.

The Resource Management Act requires the NRC to be vigilant to potential environmental effects caused by discharges notwithstanding the wording of any current Resource Consents. The Russell Landfill is essentially a small rural tip designed to meet the modest needs of the local community. It is unsuitable to serve as a district-wide facility and in today's context would never be granted a Resource Consent for such purposes. The landfill is built over a fractured greywacke rock that is porous. Therefore the lateral ditch that has been constructed there does not interdict all the leachate that runs off the site and this fact is recognised in the Resource Consent granted for disposal to ground. The leachate that is disposed to ground ultimately enters the Uruti wetland and then the adjoining estuarine area. This is in close proximity to important customary and commercial shellfish beds.

As mentioned earlier, the resultant leachate will contain a number of toxins. A portion of the leachate discharged will be captured in the ditch and piped to the Russell Sewerage Treatment Plant. However, this plant is not designed for nor is it capable of treating heavy metals, pesticides, organo-chlorine, petroleum distillates or similar pollutants. Moreover, some of these toxins can have the effect of inhibiting the biological treatment processes utilised by the plant.

It is understood that preliminary advice given to FNDC by NRC officers indicated that the Resource Consent granted for the Russell landfill was “flexible” enough to accommodate the proposed dumping of 1000 extra tonnes of waste per month there. As mentioned earlier, the legal advice provided to the Society by our solicitor strongly suggests that this is not the case. We believe that the NRC has a duty to uphold the spirit and intent of the Resource Management Act, particularly in respect of regional waste management and the consequent discharge of pollutants. We would be grateful to receive any copies of advice provided by your officials on this matter.

I look forward to receiving your response to our complaint. There is some urgency in this regard since the FNDC has alrady attempted to initiate this district-wide dumping at our landfill by bringing several large truck and trailer units full of waste onto our isolated Peninsula, stirring the anger of local residents and the business community.

Ends