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Farmers urged to check effluent systems

Monday, 19 August 2013 8:30 a.m.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council begins its annual dairy effluent compliance visits to farms shortly – and it’s urging farmers to check their effluent management systems.

The Regional Council visits farms in the region unannounced to check farmer compliance with regulations to prevent farm effluent reaching waterways. Pollution Prevention Team Leader Steve Pickles said compliance levels across the Bay of Plenty had improved slightly last season.

“We still have some way to go to reach our target of farmers being 100 percent compliant, 365 days of the year, but it was really pleasing to see an improvement,” he said.

“We’ve reviewed the last couple of season’s results and we’ve narrowed down a few key high risk areas that seem to be catching farmers out with their effluent management. These include not physically inspecting an effluent irrigator while it’s operating, not ensuring appropriate effluent storage for wet weather, irrigating too close to waterways and poor effluent system maintenance. 

“We’ve seen quite a few cases where it’s likely the farmer didn’t even know that effluent was running off to watercourses during irrigation. When the irrigator’s shifted the next day, there may be little, or no evidence obvious to the farmer that runoff had occurred,” he said.

Effluent should be applied when soil conditions were suitable, so it’s important to have enough storage for wet weather, and to lower pond levels frequently to maintain storage capacity.

“Effluent flowing into drains was an issue observed last season, and this has to stop. Regular equipment maintenance is vital, including checking for worn or damaged pipes and couplings.”

Mr Pickles said farmers should use Dairy NZ’s technical services, dairy company advisors or an independent effluent specialist to ensure their systems were working well.

“We are fortunate that within the Bay of Plenty we have committed rural professionals from across the industry prioritising 100 percent compliance and providing support and advice to farmers.”

Farmers could also discuss the Regional Council’s farm dairy compliance monitoring programme by calling the Council on 0800 884 880.

 

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