From mid-2014 through to 2015 there was a significant increase in the number of odour notifications received regarding Porirua City Council’s Spicer Landfill, located at the end of Broken Hill Road. Porirua City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council understand that odours from Spicer Landfill have an impact on the local community in the Tawa and Porirua areas.
In late 2015, Greater Wellington Regional Council undertook a comprehensive review of the Spicer Landfill consent conditions. Since the review Porirua City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council have been working together throughout 2016 on a multi-pronged approach to prevent offensive and objectionable odour from leaving the landfill.
Both GWRC and PCC acknowledge that managing the odour from the landfill will be an ongoing task.
This page aims to provide easily easily accessible information to the public and community affected by Landfill odours; to assist in understanding the process for reporting odour notifications to GWRC; to inform what steps are undertaken by GWRC in response to odour notifications; as well as news, progress updates and technical reports.
What makes an odour 'offensive or objectionable'?
The term ‘objectionable’ is used in consent conditions; it is a subjective term and is open to interpretation. There is guidance from case law (Donnely v Gisborne District Council) in which the normal meaning was applied: that is the odour is considered undesirable, displeasing, annoying or open to objection. GWRC has developed a standard practice and procedure to assess odour to limit the subjectivity of our odour assessments. We record the frequency, intensity and duration of the odour, as well as the level of offensiveness and the location in which the odour is detected. For example, an industrial area or a rural environment might have a higher tolerance for certain odours than a residential area. This procedure ensures that our odour assessment can stand up to challenge. You can see an example of our odour assessment sheets here (XLS 253 KB) . (XLS 253 KB)
If you smell an offensive or objectionable odour, please follow this process:
- Call the GWRC Environmental Hotline on 0800 496 734; and
- Provide details of the odour, such as how intense it is and where you think it might be coming from - you will also need to provide your name, address and phone number (these will be confidential and will not be released to other parties unless we have your permission to do so).
Anyone in the community can report an odour issue. The notification should be made when the odour is occurring so that an officer can assess the odour to determine if it is compliant or not. You can call 24/7 to report an odour.
What happens after you call?
The Environmental Regulation Officer is notified via text. The officer on-call will get back in touch with you to confirm the details of your call and gather further information. In most cases the duty officer will respond to you when the notification is paged to them; however, sometimes the duty officer may be attending another incident and unable to contact you immediately. On these occasions, the duty officer will call you back at the first opportunity to confirm the nature of the odour and whether it is still present.
If the odour is present and assessed by you to be offensive or objectionable, the duty officer will investigate further by:
- Going to the site where the odour was reported from. If the odour is present they will complete an odour assessment to determine whether the odour is offensive or objectionable in their opinion;
- Contacting the landfill operators and/or PCC to inform them of the odour and to find out if there is anything happening on site that may be creating a strong odour and see if anything can be done to reduce or eliminate the odour at the site; and
- If an offensive or objectionable odour is detected the officer will carry out a site inspection to try and determine the exact source of the odour, such as a specific area of the landfill.
Notifiers are then called back to inform them of the outcome of the investigation.
For most odour incidents, the duty officer will carry out an investigation into the odour notification only after two notifications have been received.
The logic regarding this is that there are a lot more people at home after-hours; therefore it is reasonable to expect that if one person thinks the smell is a problem, other people probably do too. Our records show that on the occasions when GWRC officers have confirmed the presence of an offensive or objectionable odour from a specific site, there has been more than one call to GWRC to report the odour.
Spicer Landfill is jointly owned by Porirua City Council (78.5%) and Wellington City Council (21.5%) with the oversight and management being provided by Porirua City Council (PCC). Envirowaste Limited is contracted by PCC and is responsible for the daily operations and management of the site.
PCC has resource consents from GWRC to carry out the landfilling operations at Spicer Landfill. These stipulate the conditions that need to be complied with. While it is the responsibility of the consent holder to ensure all conditions are met and complied with, GWRC also has a responsibility to ensure that PCC meets the obligations of their consents through consent compliance monitoring.
PCC has a duty to comply with the resource consent and all conditions. Some of the critical conditions from the resource consent include:
- Development and review of the landfill operational management plan – this details the operational responsibilities of the landfill and maintenance regimes, a description of how the consent is to be exercised to minimise adverse effects on the environment, a description of the monitoring programme and waste acceptance criteria and disposal methods (currently under review by GWRC)
- Development of a contingency plan addressing the amelioration of offensive odour– this stipulates what actions PCC/Envirowaste Limited will undertake in response to offensive odours being detected beyond the boundary of the landfill (currently under review by GWRC)
- Undertake and report on water quality monitoring
- Record details of all odour complaints and remedial action undertaken
However, it is the responsibility of GWRC to carry out consent compliance monitoring. This consists of:
- Regular compliance inspections on site
- Review and approval of management plans and other documents
- Annual compliance audits to ensure all conditions are being met
- Review of environmental monitoring data and annual reports
GWRC also investigates notifications of incidents and non-compliance, and carries out enforcement action, where necessary.
What resource consents do PCC hold to operate the landfill?
PCC holds a suite of discharge consents issued by GWRC under the Resource Management Act 1991. These include consents to discharge refuse to land, and odour to air. These resource consents were issued in 1996 via a full public process, which was open to submissions, and expire in 2030.
PCC and GWRC are in the process of reviewing the consent conditions to modernize them so that they align with best practice. PCC are managing this process and will be seeking input from the community in the near future. For further information on the change of conditions, please contact PCC.
Why are they allowed to discharge odour?
The consents only allow odour discharges to a certain threshold – much like noise is allowed to a certain decibel limit. This threshold is known as ‘offensive and objectionable’.
There is guidance from case law (Donnely v Gisborne District Council) in which the normal meaning was applied: undesirable, displeasing, annoying or open to objection.
A test will be applied by the court that the term objectionable will be as it applies to "the minds of a significant cross section of reasonable people in the community".
How do you measure odour?
Odour can only be measured by the human nose currently.
The duty officers who respond to odour complaints have all been trained on how to assess odour, and we have a standardised system to record the odour monitoring undertaken. (XLS 253 KB) (link to excel sheet?)
What makes the odours?
As with your household rubbish, refuse disposed at the landfill breaks down releasing gases – some of which are odorous. Different areas of the landfill release different odour depending on the type and age of the underlying refuse.
Why doesn't PCC stop these odours?
PCC owns the solution to these odour issues – the key is that PCC needs to manage the site to prevent offensive and objectionable odours being experienced in the community.
Why do the odours only occur sometimes?
The weather, wind and on site practices all play a part in whether an odour is experienced in the community. The site management needs to take account of all these factors to prevent offensive or objectionable odours in the community. There is still work PCC needs to do to get it right.
So what does the resource consent exactly say regarding odour?
The resource consent conditions for odour states that:
“The consent holder shall take all practicable steps to prevent offensive or objectionable odours being detected at or beyond the boundary of the site as defined by the District Plans. Offensive odour shall be determined by an enforcement officer of the Wellington Regional Council.”
This means PCC needs to do everything within their means to prevent offensive or objectionable odours beyond the landfill boundary – by putting measures in place to reduce or mitigate odours and operating within ‘best practice’ landfill management practices at all times.
As mentioned above, PCC is working towards changing these conditions.
Who determines offensive odours?
The public and residents who live round the landfill advise GWRC of offensive or objectionable odours, and GWRC officers assess if it is offensive or objectionable. The resource consent conditions state this.
What is an abatement notice?
An abatement notice is an enforcement tool which regulators of the Resource Management Act 1991 use to set a specific timeframe by which the individual or company (those on whom the abatement is served) shall either do a certain thing or shall cease a certain activity.
In the case of an activity where there is a consent, an abatement notice is a powerful tool in order to help bring a consent holder into compliance with their consent, within a set time period.
What makes an odour 'offensive and objectionable'?
The term ‘objectionable’ is used in consent conditions; it is a subjective term and is open to interpretation. There is guidance from case law (Donnely v Gisborne District Council) in which the normal meaning was applied: that is the odour is considered undesirable, displeasing, annoying or open to objection. GWRC has developed a standard practice and procedure to assess odour to limit the subjectivity of our odour assessments. We record the frequency, intensity and duration of the odour, as well as the level of offensiveness and the location in which the odour is detected. For example, an industrial area or a rural environment might have a higher tolerance for certain odours than a residential area. This procedure ensures that our odour assessment can stand up to challenge. You can see an example of our odour assessment sheets here (XLS 253 KB) . Our odour assessment procedures are in accordance with national best practice and the Ministry for the Environment Good Practice Guide (which is currently being updated).
What about impacts on my health?
Regional Public Health is aware that residents living near the Spicer Landfill have expressed concerns about health effects due to odour issues from this landfill.
GWRC met with Regional Public Health and they have provided some guidance in relation to health concerns raised. You can read this guidance directly on RPH’s website or read the RPH's public health advice for residents living nearby. (PDF 196 KB)
Latest Update: March 2018
On Friday 2 March, GWRC received four odour complaints about Spicer Landfill. If you were affected by odour from the landfill, we understand how this would have been frustrating and may have inconvenienced you.
Our pollution response officer was unable to attend and undertake an odour assessment, as they were investigating another incident. However, we have requested PCC investigate the cause of the odour that occurred on Friday 2 March, as it clearly affected members of the community.
Information reviewed to date as part of this investigation shows that the gas collection was operating effectively, daily cover was applied, and the sludge received that day was not identified as the cause of odours outside the landfill – this process really shows the value of the landfill management plan as a management and compliance tool. A GWRC audit of Spicer Landfill on 12 February did not detect any non-compliance.
GWRC will continue to monitor compliance of the landfill, and investigate any issues. Please continue to call our Environmental Pollution Hotline (0800 496 734) if you do detect and odour.
Update: August 2017
Last month we approved the revised Spicer Landfill Operational Management Plan (OMP). The updated OMP reflects the significant operational improvements at Spicer Landfill which have resulted in better environmental outcomes and reduced odour. This is a key document to give the community surety that the landfill is being well managed into the future. The community were invited to comment on the draft OMP at the Community Liaison Group (CLG) meeting on 28 June 2017. The updated document will join the Spicer Landfill Gas Management Plan which was approved in June 2016, and GWRC will be measuring the sites performance against the 2 key documents.
In early August PCC submitted a resource consent application to update the current landfills consent conditions – these date from the early 90’s. The application seeks to modernise the conditions, and ensure they align with best industry practice. This process will effectively ‘codify’ the improved practices that have occurred onsite since mid 2015. It is expected that a decision will be made within the next month or two.
Update: May 2017
Porirua City Council have invited interested members of the Tawa community to a special Community Liaison Group (CLG) meeting on Wednesday 10 May 2017 at the Linden Social Centre from 7pm.
In 1996, resource consents were granted to PCC for the continued operation of Spicer Landfill, to expire in 2030. Since then there have been changes to landfill management practices in New Zealand so PCC are seeking to vary the consent conditions to more closely reflect best practice.
The intention of the meeting is to introduce the proposed changes to the Spicer Landfill consent conditions, and provide the public the opportunity to give PCC feedback to consider.
Update: March 2017
On the evening of Friday 24 February 2017, Greater Wellington Regional Council's Environment Hotline received multiple notifications about odour from Spicer Landfill. GWRC is investigating the situation.
Update: January 2017
In December 2016 GWRC completed another site inspection of the Spicer Landfill. At the time of the inspection, the site was fully complying with all onsite operational conditions and management plan requirements. The site will continue to be inspected on a regular basis. The Spicer Landfill gas management plan has now been in effect for six months, and PCC are continuing to monitor its operation.
In September 2016, Porirua City Council submitted a revised Operations Management Plan (OMP). This plan provides procedures, monitoring and actions for all day to day operations of the landfill. GWRC and technical experts Cardno Ltd have reviewed the OMP. GWRC is in final discussions with Porirua City Council over the content of the OMP, and the approval and implementation of this plan is imminent. It’s important to note here that the OMP ‘codifies’ the improved management practices and procedures which have been in place for the last 12 months or so. The plan is also in addition to the Landfill Gas Management Plan which we approved in June 2016.
The resource consents for Spicer Landfill require that the operation of the landfill must be in accordance with the Operations Management Plan (OMP). By getting the OMP and the Landfill Gas Management Plan revised and updated, it essentially updates the ‘compliance baseline’ for acceptable onsite operations. Therefore, should the site not be operating as per the resource consent conditions or the plans, the site will be non-compliant, and GWRC will investigate.
Consent Condition - Review
GWRC and PCC have been meeting throughout 2016 to discuss updating the consent conditions for Spicer Landfill. As part of our investigation into the increase of odour notifications in 2015, we conducted an in-depth analysis of the existing consent conditions to determine whether the resource consent conditions, one, played a role in the increase in odour experienced in the community; and two, whether the conditions needed to be changed/updated before the consents expired in 2030. The outcome of the consent analysis concluded that the conditions were dated, and did not represent ‘best practice’ and did not have adequate consent conditions relating to the mitigation measures around the operation of the landfill gas capture, treatment and discharge system. In GWRC’s meeting with PCC we have advised that our intention is to change the consent conditions so that they are more modern and align with best practice. The process to change the consents needs to be ‘led’ by PCC, and we are encouraging PCC to discuss these changes with the community. We understand that PCC are currently considering when and how to engage with the community around these changes to the consents. Any further information in regards to the progress should be sought from PCC.
Update: June 2016
GWRC regulatory oversight of Spicer Landfill gas management reached a milestone on 17th June 2016, with the new Landfill Gas Management Plan coming into effect.
In June 2015, GWRC issued Abatement Notices to PCC and ESL because the gas capture and overall management of the system was not up to best international practice. In July 2015 the Environment Court ‘stayed’ the Abatement Notices, and required PCC (and ESL) to prepare a Landfill Gas Management Plan (LGMP).
GWRC has carefully reviewed the plan, with its technical experts from Cardno. We are satisfied that the LGMP outlines best management practices and processes, and is in line with best international practice. This will mean closer monitoring of the gas levels onsite and management triggers with actions in the case of odour complaints or the detection of increased levels of gas on site.
Since June 2015 there has also been significant upgrade works undertaken on site to improve the gas management system, including extensive maintenance of existing gas wells and the addition of several new wells. PCC have reported an increase in the amount and quality of gas being collected as a result.
Given the site now has a much more effective landfill gas capture system in place, and the management and oversight of this is enshrined in the LGMP, we consider the Abatement Notices have served their purposes and GWRC has subsequently withdrawn the notices.
Our compliance monitoring regime will now move to focus on checking compliance with the LGMP. The LGMP includes:
- System performance objectives
- How the gas system is operated and monitored, including targets to meet
- Design and construction standards for the system and new gas wells
- Flare operation and maintenance to ensure destruction of the captured gases
The detailed information in the LGMP means that PCC, ESL and GWRC have joint understanding and agreement on how best practice in management and monitoring of the gas system will be achieved. It also gives GWRC confidence in PCC and ESL to manage the gas system in such a way to meet the conditions of their resource consents.
Now that the LGMP development process is complete, PCC will shortly be submitting to GWRC for review an updated version of the Operations and Management Plan. The OMP will look at other areas of the landfill’s operations, management and monitoring practices, to ensure these too are consistent with international best practices.
Update: December 2015
GWRC noticed a reduction in odour notifications received over October and November 2015. PCC and ESL continue to focus on implementing practical solutions on site to address the odour issues. You can find out more details about what has been happening on site here: http://www.pcc.govt.nz/News---Events/Latest-News/Spicer-Landfill-Updates (NOT THE RIGHT LINK?). GWRC officers are continuing with frequent inspections at the landfill and are provided with regular progress updates from PCC.
Good progress has been made towards the development of the Landfill Gas Management Plan (LGMP). A draft was submitted to GWRC in October which was reviewed by GWRC and their technical experts (Cardno NZ Limited). The review findings were provided back to PCC and further meetings held to work through any outstanding technical matters. GWRC will see an amended plan in February 2016 and hope to have it approved shortly after. The Abatement Notices continue to be 'stayed' (see further information below) by the Court while this process is underway.
If you live in the Tawa area you may have received a flyer in your letterbox in early December about the Spicer Landfill. This included a card with some information and a magnet advertising the Environmental Hotline. This mail drop was done in response to requests from the local community to ensure anyone experiencing odour is aware of who to contact about it, and advertise this website as a location to access further information on the issue.
Odour Incident Report: 25 June 2015
On the evening of Thursday 25 June 2015, Greater Wellington Regional Council received 11 notifications regarding odour from the Spicer Landfill. The duty officer was present in the area from 4.30pm. He made an assessment of the odour present and found it to be compliant with resource consent WGN940046  because:
- He was unable to prove the presence of an offensive or objectionable odour as the odour was dissipating at the various locations visited; and
- No issues were found with the operation of the landfill that could be directly connected to the odour. The Waste Water Treatment Plant sludge had been buried prior to 4pm that day and the second cap was being placed at the time.
The officer was unable to confirm a breach of the resource consent and the investigation concluded around 6.30pm.
Report: Abatement Notice Issues Regarding Operation of Landfill Gas Collection System
GWRC enforcement officers undertook a compliance inspection to Spicer Landfill on 27 May 2015 following a number of odour complaints on the evening of the 26 May 2015. At the inspection officers discovered non-compliance with the condition 22 of the landfill’s resource consent WGN940046  which relates to the operation of the gas collection system. The condition states that the consent holder needs to:
"…take all practicable measures to avoid, remedy or mitigate the effects of the discharge of landfill gases to air. Within 30 months of the date of the grant of this consent, the consent holder shall have in place a gas interception system, and the landfill gas shall be either recovered or flared, or both."
The non-compliance observed by GWRC visiting officers was leakage from gas wells meaning that the gas was not being adequately recovered or flared (burnt).
This non-compliance is still under investigation.
Abatement Notice Issued: Due to issues observed onsite on 27 May 2015, GWRC have now (on 17 June 2015) issued an abatement notice. The same notice has been issued to Porirua City Council, as the consent holder, and a ‘duplicate’ has been issued to EnviroWaste Services Limited, as the landfill operators.
Porirua City Council and Enviro Waste Service Limited have now been granted until 10 July 2015 to comply with the notice.
Both abatement notices require the same thing; that Porirua City Council and EnviroWaste Services Limited must ‘cease the unauthorised discharge of contaminants, namely landfill gases, to air from the gas collection system at the Spicer Landfill’.
Authorised gas discharges from the gas collection system are discharges from the gas collection system where gas in the system has been adequately recovered or flared, or both, in accordance with condition 22.
(NB – the gas collection system may not be the only source of gas on the landfill)
Latest Update: Enviro Waste Services Limited has appealed their abatement notice to the Environment Court and has also requested a stay (or postponement) of the notice. A ‘stay’ means that the appellant doesn’t need to comply with the abatement notice until the matter is resolved.
On 17 July the Environment Court granted Enviro Waste Services Limited an 8 week stay of their abatement notice, on the proviso that during this time Enviro Waste Services Limited is to develop a new and detailed Landfill Gas Management Plan. Enviro Waste Services Limited needs to submit the Landfill Gas Management Plan to GWRC by 28 August. This will be reviewed by our technical experts. The judge has required all parties to report back to the court by mid-September
During the ‘stay’ of the abatement, the resource consents for the landfill must still be complied with.
GWRC considers the development of a comprehensive Landfill Gas Management Plan is a much needed step forward, and is in line with our overall compliance strategy.
How GWRC will assess compliance with the abatement notice: As the non-compliance relates to operational issues with the gas system, Porirua City Council and EnviroWaste Services Limited will need to show that they have undertaken upgrades to the system and to their maintenance and management practices. These changes will need to make sure that the gas interception system will operate in a way that ensures that all landfill gas shall be either recovered or flared, or both – that is, it meets the requirement spelt out in condition 22 of the landfills resource consent.
GWRC will require proof that sufficient systems upgrades and maintenance programmes have been implemented to ensure that the gas interception system will be operated and maintained in a way so as to remain compliant into the future.
How does this abatement fit with GWRC wider compliance strategy and technical review work: An abatement notice is a regulatory ‘tool’ provided for under the Resource Management Act 1991. The abatement notice provides greater impetus to comply with the consent conditions by requiring a specific area of detected non-compliance to be addressed, by a certain date.
The technical information supplied in relation to meeting compliance with this abatement notice will be reviewed by GWRC’s technical experts. This information will also provide our officers with a better understanding of the operation and management of landfill gas interception system which will assist with assessing compliance in the future.
If you smell an odour: Please continue to notify GWRC of any offensive and objectionable odours you encounter. The process for responding to incidents will remain the same.
Offensive Odour Report: 25 May 2015
During the afternoon and evening of 26 May 2015 GWRC received 16 notifications regarding odour. These were investigated by the Duty Officer who was out in the catchment responding to these notifications from 3.30-3.45pm and then from 5-8pm. The officer determined that the odour was offensive and objectionable.
Following this incident, GWRC has:
- Followed up with all the members of public that notified GWRC of odour on this occasion
- Undertaken a site visit of Spicer Landfill
In response to this odour GWRC has sent a ‘Please Explain’ letter to PCC and to the Spicer landfill operators, to establish what was happening at the landfill over the 24 hours prior and to establish, with supporting evidence, how PCC and Envirowaste Services Limited took all practicable steps to prevent odour beyond the boundary. Analysis of the information we hold is being undertaken to see if any other outcome related actions can be taken whilst this investigation occurs. GWRC has concluded this investigation and determined that there is insufficient evidence of a breach of consent on the 26 May. However the information gathered from this investigation has been used in the investigation regarding the 27 May non-compliance. Formal warnings have been issued to Porirua City Council and EnviroWaste Services Limited for the non-compliance observed on 27 May. These warnings are in addition to the abatement notice issued on 17 June 2015.
The information gathered will be used to determine if a breach of the Resource Management Act 1991 has occurred, and to decide on the appropriate punitive measures (enforcement action) that should be taken. This process is likely to take a few months.
Latest Update: GWRC have concluded the investigation into the 26 May offensive odours and have determined that while there was a confirmed objectionable and offensive odour occurring in the Tawa community, we did not have enough evidence to confirm that all practicable steps were not being undertaken at the landfill site to prevent odour. Given the consent condition requires these two strands to be met, and only one strand has been on this occasion, we could not confirm a breach of consent on 26 May. We appreciate that this will be disappointing for those people who complained that evening.
However from the information gathered from this investigation, we have determined that there was non- compliance onsite on the 27 May. The non-compliance observed was:
- That landfill gas was leaking out of the gas collection system at wells 2 & 17
- That the wells had been inadequately maintained which had allowed these leaks to occur
Given this we issued a formal warning (on 16 September) to both Enviro Waste Services Limited and Porirua City Council for the non-compliance observed on 27 May. These formal warnings are in addition to the abatement notice issued on 17 June 2015.
Gas Discharge Report: 16 March 2015
During a site visit on 16 March 2015 GWRC consultants observed a leakage from gas wells indicating a breach of condition 22 of the landfill’s resource consent.
GWRC sent letters to PCC and Envirowaste Services Limited to obtain information on this issue and has received responses. Their responses have been considered and the investigation is being presented to the GWRC Enforcement Decision Group (EDG) in order to make a decision on enforcement action. The outcome of the EDG’s decision will be notified during the week of 6-10 July.
Latest Update: On 8 July 2015, following an meeting of the Enforcement Decision Group, GWRC issued an Infringement Notice to Enviro Waste Services Limited.
The Infringement Notice was issued as the outcome of the investigation into the gas well leakage observed on 16 March 2015. It was determined that they had not complied with condition 22 of the discharge to air consent and therefore the gas discharge of landfill gas was in breach of section 15(1)(c) of the Resource Management Act 1991. The infringement fine is $1,000.
The amount of the infringement fee is set by the Resource Management (Infringement Offences) Regulations 1999.
In relation to this same incident GWRC issued a Formal Warning to Porirua City Council.
Offensive Odours Report: 9 March 2015
On the evening of 9 March 2015, GWRC received a number of notifications regarding odour. These were investigated by the Duty Officer. The officer determined that the odour was offensive and objectionable.
Following this incident, GWRC has:
- Followed up with all the members of public that notified GWRC of odour on this occasion
- Sent PCC a formal letter requesting they explain, with supporting evidence, how PCC and Envirowaste Services Limited took all practicable steps to prevent odour beyond the boundary.
- Received a response from PCC and completed the incident investigation.
GWRC could not confirm that the offensive odour experienced on 9 March resulted from a breach of condition 14 of the consent, which states that the landfill operators must ‘take all practicable steps to prevent offensive or objectionable odours being detected at or beyond the boundary’ of the Spicer Landfill site. This is because GWRC was unable to link the odour to any on site practices or operations to confirm that all practicable steps were not taken. The investigation into the 9 March incident was completed with advice letters to PCC and Envirowaste Services Limited being issued on 22 June 2015.
GWRC engages technical expertise: GWRC has recently engaged the services of Cardno NZ Limited to assist with landfill compliance. This expertise will allow the compliance officer to drill into the more technical issues at the site. “While we don’t often get technical support of this type for landfills, we need to get to the bottom of this issue quickly for the community” says the landfill compliance officer Louise McKenzie. The technical issues that Cardno will be reviewing will be PCC’s management of:
- Gas collections system/design
- Gas monitoring
- Cover management/depth/supply
- Tip face control/size/design
- Stormwater control including control on water ingress into completed areas
- Cell design/stage design from initiation to completion
- Review of ‘closure’ of old cells
- Sludge management/placement/mixing ratio
The first step in this process was a site visit carried out on 16 March 2015, followed by recommendations that PCC need to work through. We will put any reports up on this website.
GWRC steps up compliance scrutiny: In addition to the engagement of Cardno NZ Limited for expert advice on landfill activities and practices, GWRC has stepped up compliance scrutiny and monitoring for the resource consents since October 2014 in response to the spike in odour notifications being received by the community. This has consisted of:
- An increase in frequency of site visits and inspections;
- Regular meetings with PCC and Envirowaste Limited to keep up to date with their progress on odour investigations and mitigation measures being put in place;
- Additional training and site specific information provided to our duty officers to ensure they can provide the best response and service to the community. This included a site induction at the landfill with the Landfill Manager; and
- A review of the current Landfill Operations and Management Plan and odour Contingency Plan – this has determined the requirement for PCC to undertake a complete overhaul of these documents. Once completed, the plans will need to be re-submitted to GWRC for review (review work to be undertaken by Cardno NZ Limited) and approval – to ensure that we are satisfied that the activities and management practices on site are being undertaken in accordance with best practice guidelines and meet the requirements and intent of the consent conditions.
PCC and Envirowaste Limited continue to work cooperatively with GWRC throughout this process to identify and address these issues to get the best outcome for the community and the environment as quickly as possible.
T and T Landfill
T and T Landfills Limited operate a construction and demolition landfill in the Owhiro Stream catchment. The site holds a suite of resource consents to operate from Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council. The site is located at 289 Happy Valley Road.
In addition to T and T, two other landfills operate in the catchment, the Wellington City Council Municipal 'Southern Landfill' and another construction and demolition landfill known as C and D Landfill.
This page aims to provide easily accessible information to the public and community affected by these water quality issues; and to assist in understanding the process for reporting environmental incidents to GWRC.
If you have a question, or would like to find out more, please contact our Environmental Help Desk at 04 830 4255 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To log an incident regarding the T and T Landfill site, or water quality in the Ōwhiro Stream, please follow this process:
- Call the GWRC Environmental Hotline on 0800 496 734; and
- Provide details of the incident and your contact details such as your name, address and phone number (these will be confidential and will not be released to other parties unless we have your permission to do so).
A duty officer will determine if a site investigation is warranted to collect information, and if so, will head out to the area. They may call you to seek additional information or clarification about the issue.
If we find the site is not complying, we will take follow up action.
Are T and T landfills allowed to discharge to the Ōwhiro Stream?
Yes, but only if they meet their consent conditions. The consent sets limits on contaminants to ensure the stream environment impact is minimised to an acceptable level.
What is the adaptive management framework under T&T Landfill Limited discharge consent?
T&T Landfill Limited have a suite of resource consents for the operation of the landfill. One of these consents is a discharge permit which allows T&T Landfill Limited to discharge contaminants including sediment-laden stormwater, leachate from the site to tributaries of the Ōwhiro Stream. The discharge is subject to a number of resource consent conditions which T&T Landfill Limited needs to comply with to manage the effects of the discharge on Ōwhiro Stream and its tributaries. In particular, the resource consent sets out discharge quality limits and an adaptive management framework. Under their consent conditions T&T Landfill Limited is required to:
- Undertake quarterly groundwater and surface water quality monitoring and get these samples analysed for a range of parameters;
- Do a comparison of the quarterly water quality sample results with the limits set out in the consent conditions and with Australia and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality Guidelines (ANZECC Guidelines);
- If the consent limit for any parameter is exceeded, and where that parameter also exceeds the latest ANZECC Guideline, a further round of sampling must be undertaken within 1 month of the exceedance being detected.
- If the results of the second round of sampling show an increase in the level of any one contaminant, T&T Landfill Limited must engage an independent ecologist to provide an assessment of the ecological effects of the discharges from the site. The assessment must include (amongst other things) an assessment of whether the treatment methodology for the discharge is the best practicable option and recommendations on methods that could be used to further treat the discharge.
- The recommendations from the ecological assessment which are approved by GWRC must then be implemented by T&T Landfills within the timeframe specified by GWRC.
Have T and T Landfills met all their consent requirements?
No, T and T are currently not complying with their consent, and GWRC already has taken enforcement action in the form of an Abatement Notice.
What requirements of the consent have T and T Landfills not met?
There are two interlinked matters that T and T have not met for the consents they hold for the site:
- A wetland to capture and treat leachate in place of the current stilling basin has not been constructed (due to the need to divert clean stormwater around the site and out of the wetland area)
- A clean stormwater diversion system has not been constructed yet
T and T landfill currently have a resource consent application with GWRC awaiting approval for the stormwater diversion system. T and T have been working with WCC property team who own the lower part of the site to resolve issues relating to the design of the system.
Why don't you close them down until they comply?
GWRC does not have the power to close sites under the Resource Management Act. Our first response to incidents such as this is always to work with the consent holder to address and reduce the environmental effects. Secondly we investigate to determine the seriousness of any non-compliance and whether enforcement action is required.
What sort of landfill is T and T?
T and T is a construction and demolition waste landfill, and cannot accept any hazardous or household waste for disposal. However, the site has operated for a number of years (since the 1960's) and the nature of the waste in the first stages of the landfill is known to contain material that would not be allowed today.
Has there always been a landfill there?
Here is a brief history of landfilling at the site (source 2006 GWRC report to Hearing Committee):
“While historical information for the area is scarce, it is believed that the large gully that is subject to the filling activity has had some form of landfill or dumping since the 1960’s. Some form of informal agreement between WCC and the operators at the time is believed to have existed to allow the site to run as a landfill with minimal waste acceptance protocols in place. Between 1991 and 1995, a company known as Ace Demolition Limited, took over the site, operating it as a construction and demolition landfill – permitting concrete, reinforced steel and the like to be placed within the landfill. The applicant (T and T Landfills) took over the site in 1995 and has operated the site as a construction and demolition landfill until the present date.”
Is it safe to use the water from the stream to water plants?
The results of testing the stream for iron, manganese and zinc have shown that the levels of these do not pose a health risk when used for watering plants. However, we are waiting on the results of further testing of Ōwhiro Stream to make sure there are no other contaminants of concern. As a precautionary approach we recommend using an alternative water source until these results are back, for example, rain water or tap water.
In general, stream water would not be recommended for watering vegetables during and for 48 hours following heavy rain, as urban streams can be contaminated by run-off from surrounding land.
What did the soil testing find?
Testing of the community garden soil was done on 8th December 2016 and involved mixing samples from 4 different sites in the garden. The soil was tested for arsenic, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, zinc and pH. All of the levels, except for arsenic, were below concentrations with a potential risk to human health. The levels of arsenic were slightly elevated above the guidelines recommended for soil used for home grown vegetables and fruits (22mg/kg versus the recommended <17mg/kg).
What are T and T doing to stop this discharge?
On 7th December 2016, GWRC met with the landfill operator, their planning consultant and engineer to discuss any immediate actions that can be taken onsite to avoid, remedy or mitigate the effects of this discharge. T and T advised they will:
- Enlarge the wetland/ stilling basin onsite to increase its volume and therefore detention time. This wetland/ stilling basin receives all water that flows through the site and the engineer was confident that this would increase treatment.
- Begin works to divert clean water in the gully systems upstream of the landfill around the active landfill area before it enters the stream. This will reduce the amount of water leaching through the landfill.
- Remove dead vegetation from a gully which may be decaying and causing deoxygenation which could result in higher contaminant concentrations.
What has been the impact on stream and fish life?
It’s clear from our inspections of the stream that there is a visible ‘iron/manganese flocculant’ in the bed of the stream, and this is still clear on the Ōwhiro Bay beach. While this is ‘visually’ concerning, we are seeking advice from our GWRC Science Team as to what ecological assessment of the stream life needs to be done. We will also seek their view on the causes of the ‘foam’ which was present in the stream during rain.
What impacts did the discharge likely cause?
GWRC Environmental Science advised that the discharge from the landfill may have had the following impacts on stream ecology - however, what is to early to say at this stage is the severity of these impacts (more on this below):
- Physical disturbance due to smothering from high suspended sediments and iron/manganese flocculant
- Toxicity associated with high metal loads both in dissolved and total phase
- Reduced light penetration thus impacting on aquatic plant life
- Potential reduction in oxygen availability in the stream
- Clogging of gills of resident aquatic biota (invertebrates/crustaceans as well as fish),
- Probable toxicity from ammoniacal-N and reduced dissolved oxygen availability
- Ongoing aesthetic impacts of deposited orange precipitate
We appreciated that these effects do raise concern, and that is why this initial 'screening' of the water quality samples have highlighted the need for a more intensive ecological assessment of the stream environment, to understand the degree of any impact from this discharge event in late November.
What is the source of the foam?
Foam forms when the water contains higher concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM) – such as from decaying matter washing downstream as well as that potentially mixed from the landfill. It can be naturally occurring. In this case, it is probably a combination of both naturally occurring DOM washing rapidly downstream from the surrounding catchment, mixed in with an unknown concentration of organic based chemical leachate from the landfill that has been flushed out of this system. It is unlikely that the foam is purely landfill based contaminant leachate, and will contain a high amount of DOM washed down from the catchment.
What is the source of the red deposits on the stream bed?
This is largely due to deposited iron/manganese flocculant, sourced from the landfill leachate. This type of orange coloured precipitate occurs when reduced groundwater (i.e. low oxygen, but containing elevated concentrations of dissolved iron & manganese) then enters surface water and comes into contact with oxygen. The iron & manganese then become oxidised in the surface water which forms the orange/rust coloured precipitate/floc that is then deposited as a fine layer in the stream bed.
What are the Guideline levels for arsenic in soil?
The level of arsenic in soil is slightly higher than recommended for growing home produce. In New Zealand the primary source of information on soil contaminants is the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health. These National Environmental Standards (NES) include an indication of the maximum concentration of substances in soil to protect human health. The recommended maximum concentration varies depending on what the land is used for – for example, lower levels are recommended for a lifestyle block (where it’s assumed 25% of produce will be consumed from the land) and much higher for commercial or industrial land or sports fields. The guidelines recommend arsenic levels of 17 and 20mg/kg when 25% and 10% of produce is consumed from home gardens, respectively. This level is considered to be conservative with a high safety factor to protect against potential health effects.
What should I do to minimise my exposure to arsenic in soil?
We are all exposed to a background level of arsenic from the environment (via food, water, soil and dust) and swallowing small amounts of arsenic every day for a long time does not lead to obvious health effects. The main way that we are exposed to arsenic from a garden is via swallowing small amounts of soil contaminated with arsenic. We should aim to lower the amount of arsenic we are exposed to from the soil by following these simple steps:
- Washing all produce thoroughly before consuming. We also recommend peeling root vegetables before consuming.
- Using gloves when gardening and washing hands carefully when finished
- Removing shoes that have been used in the soil before entering the house
The Ministry of Health have a booklet ‘Arsenic and Health’, which is a great source of additional information and advice and can be accessed online:
The information in this pamphlet also covers situations where the level of arsenic is much higher than the level found from the soil sampling in Ōwhiro Community Garden.
Is it safe to eat vegetables in soil with slightly elevated arsenic levels?
The main way that arsenic enters the body from home gardens is via swallowing contaminated soil. The guideline level assumes that 100% of the arsenic in the soil we swallow will be absorbed by the body. We know that the actual amount the body can absorb is a lot lower (around 70%) and so the level is set with a high safety factor. People can swallow small amounts of arsenic every day for a long time without any obvious health effects.
Although plants can absorb arsenic from soil, the levels absorbed will be much lower than what is found in the soil. It is more important to remove soil and dust from the surfaces of vegetables and fruits.
We do not believe that the current level of arsenic is high enough to stop using the garden. However, it is important to take steps to reduce the amount of soil that might be swallowed, for example, dirt on unwashed vegetables or transferred from hands to mouth, while in the garden. This includes ensuring vegetables are washed to remove any dirt from the roots and surfaces. We also recommend that root vegetables are peeled before eating.
Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is important for good health, as is participating in the community garden. The benefits of these activities for improving health are greater than any potential risk from arsenic in the soil.
Is it safe to garden at the site?
We are exposed to small amounts of arsenic from the environment over our lifetime and when we are aware of a potential source, the aim is to reduce the amount of exposure. Some simple steps can be taken to reduce the amount of arsenic exposure from gardening by limiting the amount of soil that could be swallowed. This includes using gloves for gardening, washing hands after gardening and before eating, removing shoes used in the garden before entering the house. The good thing about following this advice is it also helps protect against other illnesses that can be associated with gardening, for example, legionella and other bacteria. Wearing a mask while gardening is also recommended to prevent breathing in legionella bacteria from soil and compost.
Is it safe for children to play in the garden?
Young children tend to have more exposure to soil due to their higher level of hand to mouth activity. It will be important to, as much as practicable, minimise the amount of soil swallowed by children by discouraging children from putting soil in their mouths, washing children’s hands frequently and washing children’s outdoor toys frequently to remove soil and dust.
The arsenic level detected in the garden is acceptable for soil used in parks and recreational areas, but above the guideline recommended for eating home grown produce. It will be important to limit as much as practicable the amount of soil swallowed by children while taking part in gardening activities.
Is it safe to swim in Ōwhiro Bay?
The levels of contaminants sampled from Ōwhiro Stream are not of concern for swimming in Ōwhiro Bay. However, at times the water in Ōwhiro Bay is not suitable for swimming, usually during and within 48 hours after heavy rainfall. The water quality of Owhiro Bay is monitored weekly during the summer season. See here for information about the water quality at this site and any warnings that are in place.
In general, urban streams are not recommended for recreational use such as swimming or paddling as the water quality can be unsuitable at times. If there is contact with the stream water we recommend that people follow good washing hands practice after activity in or with the stream.
Update: September 2020
In June 2020 GWRC received notifications from the public of earthworks on a ridgeline within T&T landfill and the discharge of contaminants from T&T Landfill into Owhiro Stream. In response to these notifications GWRC have visited Owhiro Stream and have undertaken and a compliance assessment of the site. The Director of T&T Landfill and their agent assisted GWRC with this assessment.
GWRC have identified a number of non-compliances with the Resource Consents for T&T Landfill. GWRC have requested that T&T Landfill undertake a number of actions to address these non-compliances by 30 September 2020.
After 30 September 2020 GWRC will re-assess compliance and make a decision on how to proceed with any outstanding issues - this may include enforcement actions.
We will continue to meet with T&T and inspect the site and Owhiro Stream to inform our investigation. This webpage will be updated when we have further information for public release.
Ōwhiro Stream Incident Report: 13 April 2018
GWRC received a notification just before 2pm on the 13th April about the Ōwhiro Stream being discoloured. Officers attended the incident and when they arrived it was noted that the water in the stream was no longer discoloured orange. GWRC are continuing to investigate the incident and are talking to the T&T Landfill operators to establish what could have caused the discolouration. As part of the investigation officers took samples from the stream which will be analysed.
Update: 13 November 2017
The western dam and perimeter swale have been completed and are now fully operational. Water from the western tributary is no longer entering the landfill. The western dam will take some days to fill. Once the water level in the dam has reached the outlet level the flow from the dam will be directed through the western swale and enter the tributary of the Ōwhiro Stream below the landfill. Photos of the western dam and swale are below.
Construction of the eastern dam is underway and is expected to be complete within the next month.
Update: 24 August 2017
The revised design and programme for the construction of the stormwater diversion swales has been reviewed by GWRC’s consultant engineer. There are no changes to the revised design or programme, but there are some important deliverables and aspects of the design noted in the review memo.
The revised programme shows an earlier completion date than previously programmed and puts more emphasis on the earlier completion of the swale and dam for the western catchment, as this is the larger of the two upstream catchments.
Update: 4 August 2017
T and T Landfill have submitted a revised programme and staging plan for the construction of the stormwater diversion swales. GWRC’s consultant stormwater engineer is currently reviewing the revised progamme and staging plan. These documents, including the review comments, will be made available once the review is complete.
Progress on diversion swales: Works on the construction of the stormwater diversion swales is progressing well. The permanent swale from the stream to the landfill haul road is complete, as is the diversion swale in the Mitchell Street catchment. Contractors are currently progressing the swale construction across the landfill face and up the western side of the landfill.
Water quality improves due to diversion works: T and T Landfill have submitted the quarterly monitoring report up to June 2017. The water quality monitoring results are now in compliance with the consented limits. This may be due to the stormwater diversion works, which are resulting in less water entering the fill and leaching out contaminants to the stream.
Update: 4 July 2017
Abatement notice issued to confirm stormwater diversion works
On 30 June 2017, GWRC issued T&T Landfills with an Abatement Notice for works relating to the (currently underway) construction of the all important stormwater diversion works. GWRC have decided to use this 'compliance tool' to reinforce the importance of completing the works in accordance with the staging plan and programme timetable submitted in May 2017. Any breaches of this abatement notice could result in punitive fines to T&T Landfills. The Abatement notice also requires that the consents for the diversion works are in place by January 2018.
The contractors on site have progressed the construction of the stormwater diversion swales in accordance with the work programme. The permanent swale from the Ōwhiro Stream tributary to the road on the site has been completed. Works on the swale across the landfill face to the western side of the site has commenced. GWRC and the landfills engineer continue to have monthly progress meetings on site.
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