Milk collection in the Waikato has continued to improve today, meaning lessening environmental risk from surplus milk getting into waterways, says Waikato Regional Council.
Fonterra has advised that the majority of its dairy factories in the region are operating with limited gas supplies. It’s hoped most of the co-op’s suppliers will have a pick up by today, with plans for pick ups at least every two days until the gas supply situation returns to normal.
The council’s compliance and education manager Rob Dragten said it was great news that most dairy factories in the region were now processing again.
“This substantially lessens the risk of dumped milk getting in waterways where it can damage aquatic life by removing oxygen from the water.”
However, Mr Dragten said dairy companies and farmers would still need to manage environmental risk closely until normal operations resume.
He advised farmers to follow recommended environmental risk management techniques if they couldn’t get their milk picked up.
“The preferred method for disposing of milk is to apply it to land well away from waterways, either by diluting it, and using farm effluent irrigation systems, or by applying it to paddocks about to be cultivated.
“Farmers using oxidation pond systems will be approaching the limits of what these can cope with (4 -6 milkings). For these farmers, if irrigation or disposal onto land is not possible, digging a soakage trench is advised for milk that can’t be put into ponds.”
Dairy industry advice is to dig a trench in an area where the water table is not high, pour milk into the trench, allow it to soak into the soil and then cover the trench with soil at a later date to avoid odour issues.
More specific information is available from www.dairynz.co.nz/milkdisposal.
Mr Dragten said there had been less than a handful of reports of milk getting into streams in the region since gas supplies were disrupted, and the council was investigating these.
“We’re not fully aware yet of the circumstances surrounding these reports and are investigating with an open mind, particularly as we know farmers are facing an exceptional situation at this time.
“However, we would remind farmers that they are not allowed to let milk be dumped into waterways because of its toxicity to aquatic life. We will not shy away from taking firm action if we learn of farmers discharging to waterways on purpose, in contravention of our rules and dairy industry advice.”
Meanwhile, Mr Dragten said the Waikato, Northland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty regional councils were looking at various options for getting rid of surplus milk as the situation required.
Waikato had, for example, allowed Civil Whey Distributors Ltd to spread more dairy factory waste, including milk, on to land than they normally would.
“We will work closely with the dairy sector and other industries to address any resource consent issues that arise during this gas supply disruption. We will also liaise closely with our local government partners on how we can collectively help.”
If anyone is having trouble complying with their resource consent, they should contact the regional council for advice on 0800 800 401.