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Whanganui's stench not going away soon

Thursday 24 Jan 2013 10:25a.m.

Whanganui's stench not going away soon

Whanganui Mayor Annette Main says it will be two or three months before the council figures out how it can get rid of the bad smell plaguing the city.

The odour, which Ms Main describes as smelling "like Rotorua", made national headlines in December when former mayor Michael Laws labelled the city "Ponganui".

The source is a wastewater treatment plant that hasn't been working properly since it was built in 2007.

"The amount of sludge that's built up over the years has meant that the pond's not working properly," says Ms Main, who says she's not looking to blame anyone.

"I guess that decisions were made in previous years for all the right reasons, but what we have is a plant that appears not to have been designed for the kind of waste that we actually have, and we need to fix that."

Experts are currently investigating the plant, and Ms Main hopes it can be repaired rather than having to build a new one.

In the meantime, the focus is on minimising the stench.

"What we're trying to do is pump as much oxygen as we can into the top layer of the pond," she told Firstline this morning.

"We have a very deep pond that is filled with sludge, so we're trying to decompose the sludge in a way that's not working. So what we have to do is pump lots and lots of oxygen in to keep that smell minimised. We've also got a huge deodorising system where sprays are being sprayed all over the area."

Not everyone's complaining though – some parts of town have been unaffected, but it usually depends on the wind.

"Some people near the plant have had to suffer a very, very bad odour over the last few weeks, and I feel very sorry for those people," says Ms Main.

"What we don't like is the south-easterly wind. If we have anything else, the smell can dissipate, but that light south-easterly is what's causing the problems in some parts of Whanganui."

But even when the wind carries the funk away, once it's indoors it can be surprisingly difficult to eliminate.

"It does tend to get trapped inside your house if in you're in one of those areas, so the smell might dissipate," says Ms Main, "but you go back inside and you can actually smell it, and I've experienced that myself."

She says Rotorua residents might be used to the smell, but Whanganui residents just want it gone.

"Sometimes it's worse [than Rotorua]… it's very disturbing."

3 News

 
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