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A $2.5million budget has been approved for the urgent removal of sludge from four of the Waitaki District Council’s wastewater ponds.

Recent testing revealed four ponds had performance issues due to a build-up of sludge, councillors heard at an emergency council meeting last week.

“We do need to complete this work as soon as possible, particularly in Palmerston — we’re not quite breaching resource conditions as yet, for discharge limits, but we’re very, very close,” project manager Joshua Rendell said.

Removal of sludge from Palmerston’s wastewater pond had been budgeted for in the long-term plan, but the other three ponds had only recently been identified as requiring desludging.

Because two of the ponds needed urgent attention and two would require work in the next two to three years, all four ponds had been packaged together in one tender.

At the March 27 meeting, councillors approved a budget of $2.5million for the project, to be drawn from accumulated depreciation reserves, and delegated power to chief executive Fergus Power to award the contract.

There were only about eight desludging contracting companies in New Zealand and the council had received tenders, ranging from $1.55million-$2.6million, from five of them, Mr Rendell said.

Work would not start until July at the earliest.

Sludge will be put into large geotextile bags, which would cover the area of a rugby field, Waitaki District Council water service and waste manager Martin Pacey said.

The bags would either be buried in the Waitaki district, or transported elsewhere “in a couple of years once it’s dried out”, Mr Pacey said.

“This is a long, drawn-out process,” he said.

Otago Daily Times