Septic tanks, let’s get down to business

Septic tanks. It’s not something we necessarily think seriously about, but it's something all of us in Kaikōura need to give some attention to following the 2016 earthquake.

At our zone committee meeting in May, Rachel Poulsen from Environment Canterbury spoke to us about the work she is doing to determine the extent of damage done to septic tanks around the district.

Environment Canterbury is responsible for ensuring that the groundwater and surface water is not being compromised by damaged wastewater systems.

Damaged systems could mean contaminated wastewater gets into our groundwater and could pose a threat to our health and the health of our environment and animals.

Contacting those with septic tanks is no easy task with about 605 properties identified as having septic tanks not connected to the Kaikoura District Council sewerage network.

At the time of her presentation, Rachel had tried to contact 382 property owners in some form but only 222 had responded.

Of those septic tanks assessed, 25 systems were damaged and were still being used, 13 were damaged but not being used, 71 were not damaged but self-checked and 113 had been checked by a contractor and not damaged.

We heard that it was important for landowners to get their septic tanks checked by a contractor to ensure there is no serious damage below the surface. Of course, this comes at a cost and many people have been understandably somewhat reluctant to do so.

Encouraging the community to check septic tanks

Septic tank damageAs a zone committee, we discussed how we could support people to get their septic tanks checked.  It aligns with our priorities around water quality, mahinga kai and earthquake recovery.   It is a topic we will pursue in search of workable fair outcomes over the next few meetings.

As part of the Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project, meetings have been held with locals and NIWA scientists around the outcomes we are seeking, and we expect to receive their report with options this month.

The uplift from the quake has meant that the mouth of the Lyell/ Waikōau is remaining open most of the time, which is great news for water clarity in the lower reaches through town.

The earthquake had disrupted weed and pest management coordination in the Waiau Toa/Clarence, that coordination should be in place ready for the spring season.

While many things are still severely affected by the earthquake, and various delays, we are seeing real activity again.