|Not a member? Sign up now!|
Poorly maintained urban septic tanks are giving agriculture the bum’s rush by posing an environmental, health and agricultural risk.
“Councils need to show the same vigilance with urban septic systems as they show with farmers. After all, farming carries with it environmental obligations,” says Rod Pemberton, Federated Farmers Southland president.
“At Pukerua, near Gore, a Federated Farmers member recently snapped photos of what could be septic tank waste coming out of stormwater. No doubt farmers will be blamed for water quality degradation, when in fact, it seems to be human waste.
“While the environmental and health risks are obvious, human waste can pose a significant risk to animal health too. It’s a triple concern for farmers, given urban encroachment.
“Yet the problem of human waste is not limited to small settlements. The Ministry for the Environment estimates there are around 291,000 households reliant on septic systems.
“I understand Waiheke Island’s large permanent population is using waste systems designed for cribs. Inadequate old septic tanks are draining into the Waitemata Harbour but no one wishes to bite the bullet on household bio-cycle systems, or a modern treatment plant.
“The same can be seen around Lake Taupo and at popular beach side settlements the length and breadth of New Zealand.
“Meanwhile many farmers have their septic systems inspected as part of water consent monitoring by councils. Leaking systems may lead to farmers being rightfully prosecuted but councils are not enforcing that same standard on either homeowners or themselves.
“It’s a double standard really, as septic systems need regular maintenance. Where councils do act, the environment - both real and business - improves.
“The Waikare oyster farm in Northland recommenced oyster exports when Far North District Council fixed up town sewerage, inspected septic tanks and cracked down on boaties flushing direct to water.
“When farmers read about human waste entering Wellington Harbour and decades of sewage overflows into Auckland's Orakei Basin, it’s no wonder they are ‘septic’ on the issue,” Mr Pemberton concluded.