A number of reports in the past few days of trucks spilling stock effluent on to or beside roads are a worrying sign and just the tip of the iceberg, says the chair of the multi-agency Regional Transport Committee.
“Trucks spilling stock effluent on to roads is dangerous for other users as it makes the highway slippery and can spatter on to windshields blocking drivers’ vision,” said Cr Norm Barker from Environment Waikato.
“In 1992, we had a motorcyclist die after he lost control of his bike because of slippery road conditions caused by stock truck effluent.
“Also, dumping effluent beside roads is an unlawful form of pollution which can affect land and waterways.”
The reported incidents this week were especially concerning coming just ahead of Gypsy Day on 1 June when dairy farmers traditionally shift a lot of stock around the countryside in trucks. One truck driver has reported effluent from stock trucks dumped beside state highway 30 between Tokoroa and the Whakamaru Bridge, while a tanker driver has reported stock effluent on the roads near Te Awamutu on a regular basis.
“Stock truck operators can dump effluent at authorised sites or ensure farmers can receive effluent from incoming trucks. This can involve settling ponds or some holding tank arrangement. Another option for the truck driver, with agreement from the farmer, is to release the effluent straight on to pasture by driving the truck on to a nearby paddock, making sure to keep the effluent away from waterways. Some 400 litres of effluent would require approximately 16 square metres of paddock. As long as the conditions associated with Rule 18.104.22.168 of the Waikato Regional Plan are followed, this land application is a permissible activity,” said Cr Barker.
A strategy to deal with a range of issues to do with stock truck effluent is currently being finalised and is due to go to EW’s council meeting in June. The strategy has involved a range of stakeholder agencies.
In the meantime, Cr Barker urged Waikato dairy farmers to make a special effort to keep stock effluent off roads on Gypsy Day. In the Waikato, the biggest dairy region in the country with more than 1.6 million dairy cows, the roads get particularly busy with stock trucks around this time of year.
Besides deliberate illegal spillage, a primary way for stock effluent to get on to roads from trucks is overfull effluent storage tanks on the stock trucks.
“Standing cows off green pasture for a minimum of four hours before transporting them is one of the keys to lowering the amount of effluent animals produce while on the move. That will help ensure effluent storage on trucks doesn’t get overloaded,” said Cr Barker.
Standing off involves keeping animals away from any green feed, with access to water and dry feed. "With Gypsy Day looming, we’d like farmers to be making the necessary arrangements to make sure they can transport their animals in a way that does not inconvenience others or the environment generally," said Cr Barker.