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Published: 2002-03-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is to issue an infringement notice against a Karapiro onion grower following a dumping of about 750 litres of herbicides in November.

But the company has avoided being prosecuted by taking a responsible attitude to ensuring its internal procedures are complied with.

This week’s Regulatory Committee heard the Council received a complaint that chemicals were being dumped in a drain at Chapman Farms at Karapiro next to an area planted in onions. The material was a bright yellow, a mixture of two herbicides and was spread over bare dirt as well as collecting in the drain alongside a track between two paddocks of onions.
The chemical was also found in a culvert which discharged into a heavily vegetated gully that led to the Waikato River 5-600 metres away.

On investigation the chemical was left over spray which had been dumped by the operator. The chemical had to be sucked up and contaminated earth removed and disposed of immediately before it rained. The soil was spread on land at Matangi and ploughed into the ground after no landfill was able to accept it.

It was likely that there were no actual effects on surface waters as the clean up was done immediately, and the substances broke down rapidly in soil, Councillors were told. However the chemicals had the potential to be toxic to aquatic organisms, fish and algae.

Enforcement action was recommended, as the spill was a deliberate act on the part of the operator, and may have led to adverse effects on the environment had it not been reported and cleaned up immediately.

Chairman Jim Howland said the dumping was very different from a spray drift incident. The Committee recommended an infringement notice be served on the company and the operator. The company’s quick response to the incident and internal action meant it would not face prosecution.

Both the operator and manager are undertaking an advanced Growsafe course on handling chemicals.

Councillors said that farmers needed to be reminded that there was no need for chemical dumping as Environment Waikato and territorial authorities collected unwanted chemicals. This week’s Committee meeting heard details of the Council’s agricultural chemical collection service, which collects chemicals from district and city councils and arranges for their safe storage and disposal.