Waitoa rendering company Wallace Corporation was fined a total of $9000 in the Morrinsville District Court last week on three charges of non-compliance with irrigation consents.
The company pleaded guilty to all three charges, and reimbursed Environment Waikato $900 for staff time and $5000 for legal costs. The charges related to incidents between April 1999 and March 2000, when nitrogen and animal processing wastewater were discharged onto land at three of its irrigation farms.
Environment Waikato only became aware of the breach of resource consent conditions when it received annual monitoring reports for the period in January this year. The company had discharged considerably more wastewater onto the farms than allowed in its consent.
Excessive volumes of effluent were irrigated, and too much nitrogen applied. If nitrogen application or the hydraulic application rate were excessive, or both were, the Council would expect adverse effects would be much greater than originally predicted, he said.
“In particular, monitoring has shown that the Glenburn farm and the Park/Auchenhaen farm groundwater nitrate levels have risen significantly since irrigation started on these farms.”
Company staff were confused about when the 12 month period started and finished, but accepted that it should have complied over the 12 months.
There was no evidence at this stage that high nitrates in the shallow groundwater near the farms had affected any neighbour, but could affect river quality by increasing nitrogen concentrations. Average concentrations in the groundwater were relatively high, but in all cases it had had no adverse effects outside the company’s farm boundaries.
The company had asked for account to be taken of the environmental effects mitigated by its environmental service in processing 30,000 cows and 250,000 calves a year, which represented 18,000 tonnes of decaying organic matter which could significantly affect the environment, if not collected and rendered.
The judge noted however that this was a commercial operation, and the company had an obligation to comply with its resource consents.
The Council considered the offences were deliberate and warnings were given on several occasions before 1999 that application rates were excessive. The company did not take sufficient action to comply, it said. The company had attempted to comply by acquiring more land but this was insufficient because of the strength and quantity of the wastewater.
In the 1999/00 year the company held 13 resource consents issued by Environment Waikato, and an audit carried out by Environment Waikato identified 386 individual non-compliance incidents with those consents. In sentencing the company, Judge Newhook said the company had shown an overall significant non-compliance with its consents.
Compared to previous years and previous compliance audits, the level of compliance in 1999/00 had improved but overall the company had been “one of the poorest performing sites in the Waikato Region for compliance”. The judge said the company had made significant progress since the offences and was now in general compliance with all resource consents.