An article by the late Bill Benfield.
See our article on the Manawatu River here.
The Manawatu is an interesting comparison. Not only is it often cited as one of New Zealand’s dirtiest rivers, research by the Cawthron Institute in Nelson showed it to be one of the dirtiest in the western world. In an item from the Dominion Post of 26/11/2009, it cites Dr Young of Cawthron claiming that a system measuring oxygen changes in water (un-defined) show the Manawatu has a reading of 107, nearly twice that of the next worse, a river near Berlin just below a sewage outfall, where the reading was 59. Dr Young cited leaching farm nutrient and treated town sewerage, with agricultural use, i.e. nitrogen run off, being most of it.
Looking to maps Google Earth, it is obvious that there is a lot of human settlement, hill country farming, some forestry and, in the valleys, long strips of pastoral farming (including dairy). There is just not the weight of dairy to support Dr Young’s claims. As well, there are many significant towns, and they cannot be ignored, this is where the authors of this review exhibit a bias. It starts with the description of the sewerage discharges; they are described as treated. In fact, the city of Palmerston North is operating a non-complying system on a temporary consent till 2020; it is the biggest urban discharge consent and for up to 46,600 cubic metres per day of only partially treated sewerage. Horowhenua District Council has also admitted dumping 5.1 million litres of “partially” treated sewerage into the Manawatu which they also admitted contained tampons, condoms and toilet paper!
Untreated storm-water is not even mentioned. It is all the rubbish from the roads and gutters, fuel spills, dead animals, garden rubbish in the drains, sometimes even raw sewerage from old combined connections. There will also be leachates from landfill rubbish sites – it’s everything.
In all, from the towns, Eketahuna, Pahiatua, Woodville, Dannevirke, Ashurst, Fielding, Shannon, Palmerston North and so on have a combined sewerage discharge consent of 75,600 cubic metres per day. To that, we can add industrial discharges from milk processor Fonterra, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals and Tui Breweries.
By claiming “sediment washing into the river from overgrazed farms or eroding countryside”, the authors ignore some of the bigger generators of silt. Forestry is certainly a major contributor, both in clearing the land for planting and at time of harvest. Another is cross blading and bulldozer work in the river bed. I’m not actually championing dairy farmers, but I think it is reasonable to say that there is a lot more involved in the Manawatu than agricultural runoff – aka “dirty dairy”.
We call on the Tasman District Councillors to ban taking any more water from Te Waikoropupū springs for industrial dairying.
Why is this important?
Te Waikoropupū (Pupū) springs in Golden bay has some of the clearest waters ever measured on earth.
And right now they are under threat from an extreme proposal to take water from the rivers that feed the springs and use it to water grass for more dairy cows. More cows would mean more pollution in these pristine springs.
If accepted the proposal would allow the springs to lose at least 20% of their world renowned clarity. It would also allow the level of nitrate pollution go above what National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has recommended is the safe upper limit. (1)(2)
The springs are of immense cultural, ecological and spiritual importance to New
Zealanders and are also visited by tens of thousands of tourists every year. They are Wahi Tapu (sacred place) for local iwi.
But in the coming months, Tasman District Councillors could accept this drastic proposal from a group called FLAG – the Takaka Freshwater Land and Advisory Group. This would be a disaster for the springs, for New Zealanders and for the local economy that depends on tourism.
Our international reputation and one of our cherished places of unique natural beauty destroyed forever.
These councillors have a choice to make. They can either protect the springs, or they can choose more dairy cows.
We the undersigned call on them to protect and safeguard this national and international treasure for current and future generations.
The Manawatu has earned us the dubious honour of being the most polluted river in the Southern Hemisphere. Anybody who remembers the quality of our waterways from the 1950s through to the 80s or thereabouts, will remember long summers spent swimming unhampered by any need to check the water quality before taking a dip. Didn’t matter if you swallowed a mouthful or two, it was clean and healthy. Not so any more.
Only 40% of our rivers now are deemed safe to swim in. The rest are safe to wade in only. And why is this? Well I recently read a warning stating it was not safe to swim following floods, that being due to the run off from surrounding farms … pesticides, fertilizers, animal faeces and urine, the unmentionable dirty word, ‘glyphosate’ and whatever other herbicide the farmer uses that is deemed perfectly harmless. (Most farmers I know have told me “roundup’s very mild” and they’re generally not inclined to want to listen to the data about the carcinogenic properties of glyphosate, acknowledged recently by WHO who said that it ‘probably causes cancer’). Anyway we are advised if we’re intending to swim in our local river spot, to go online and check the various LG websites for the quality of the water on the day.
Recently during a spell of unrest about the state of our swimming holes as folk were catching on to the level of pollution we have, we had a publicity stunt by Nats Nick Smith, Jono Naylor and Ian McKelvie, those governmental (corporate) reps of ours who strive to convince us the severely polluted Manawatu is all safe as houses. It was a very quick dip and wouldn’t have fooled too many. The public awareness of water quality (or lack thereof) is somewhat heightened these days, thanks especially to social media. Our corporate owned media is now treading carefully the fine line of not upsetting the powers that be … lest they also be short of a job.
WHAT IS POLLUTING THE RIVER?
* Farm runoff from fertilisers, and animal waste such as cow dung and urine, leach into the river.
* Treated sewage discharged by councils
* Treated industrial effluent including wastewater from Fonterra, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, Tui Brewery
* Sediment washing into the river from overgrazed farms or eroding countryside alters the natural habitat for native bugs or fish [stuff.co.nz]
The Double Speak of Local Government
There is, however, a very murky, seldom mentioned side to the Manawatu River. I watched recently, a video by Horowhenua District Councillor (now Mayor) Michael Feyen. Feyen, who cares passionately about the environment and protecting it, has filmed some very interesting videos demonstrating the extent of the pollution of the Manawatu and Horowhenua waterways by the District Council (sewage discharge), industry and farming practices. His colleague Cr Ross Campbell has filmed similar and subsequently been trespassed for two years by his own Council, illustrative of how little DCs truly abide by the sustainable practices that they espouse on their websites nationwide. A note here, I am not anti farming … it’s really about genuinely using sustainable practices which includes for one, the adequate fencing of waterways so stock don’t trample the waterways. It’s also about local government making rules that reflect sustainable practices … and enforcing them.
“Toe the line and deny any pollution by the HDC was the clear message given by Mayor Brendan Duffy to Horowhenua District Councillors” Mrs Anne Hunt (former HDC Cr)
For fuller coverage of the event surrounding the alleged discharge of raw sewage into Shannon’s waterways by the DC, and the subsequent assault of a local environmental activist (this is how serious the issue has become) go HERE. Local iwi, Ngati Whakatere have been vocal about this pollution for some time now.
See also the statements of a whistleblower, Mrs Anne Hunt, an former Councillor who tells of the lengths the Horowhenua DC goes to to discredit Environmental Care members. Feyen has stated that DCs and Horizons are serial polluters!
THE NUMBERS back in 2009
* 25 resource consents to discharge into the Manawatu River were granted.
* 75,600 cubic metres could be discharged daily.
* Palmerston North, Manawatu, Horowhenua and Tararua councils had consents to discharge treated sewage and wastewater.
* Horizons Regional Council took four prosecutions and 36 fine actions over illegal discharges that year.
* The top five resource consents for daily discharge:
46,600 cubic metres, Palmerston North City Council
Watch and hear of the young man who contracted Trench Mouth from playing water sports in the Manawatu River. He was told by his Doctor that there have been only a few cases of this since WW2.
Watching this video got me researching a little more about why Trench Mouth and the bacteria in the water causing it. Firstly, here is a description of this particularly nasty infection:
The name alone can leave a bad taste in your mouth. But this EXTREMELY painful bacterial infection leaves a LOT more than just a bad taste. Trench mouth is like an amped up case of periodontal disease, where the infection is not only rapidly attacking the gums and bone, but causes the formation of gum ulcers filled with bacteria, food debris and DECAYING tissue earning it the official name of ACUTE NECROTIZING ULCERATIVE GINGIVITIS…Trench mouth became prevalent during World War I when soldiers who were fighting from the trenches developed the condition… overgrowths of some extremely virulent bacteria spread throughout the mouth.
One of them, spirochete, happens to also be responsible for syphilis when it’s found genitally.
If UNTREATED, the bacteria from trench mouth can spread to the cheeks, lips, or jawbone, where it’s been known to destroy healthy tissue –Research has shown that the bacteria associated with this gum condition can, in EXTREME cases, ALSO spread throughout the body, AND even cause oral cancers. If you HAVE trench mouth, your gums will develop a GRAY FILM caused by decomposed tissue. You may also see crater-like ulcers between the teeth.
Very ominous. Searching further, I looked for more info on ‘spirochetes’. The following information is from the Berkley University site. It is edited for brevity but you can learn more at the link.
Introduction to the Spirochetes
“Although spirochetes are not a large group — there are only six genera — they have had tremendous impact on our lives. Both syphilis and Lyme disease are caused by these bacteria and other species are important symbionts in the stomachs of cows and other ruminants. [Note: reports say Lyme disease has doubled in five years. For a somewhat disturbing expose of Lyme, watch the doco Under Our Skin].
Spirochetes are long and slender bacteria, usually only a fraction of a micron in diameter but 5 to 250 microns long. They are tightly coiled, and so look like miniature springs or telephone cords…
The ecological roles of spirochetes are varied; the group includes both aerobic and anaerobic species, and both free-living and parasitic forms. … Some species of Treponema live in the rumen of a cow’s stomach, where they break down cellulose and other difficult to digest plant polysaccharides for their host.”
Perhaps the best-known spirochetes are those which cause disease. These include syphilis and Lyme disease, as well as other less well-known ones… leptospirosis is a livestock disease caused by spirochetes. SOURCE
NZ’s Massey University have produced the following series of seven videos giving you the ABCs of Leptospirosis:
A brief summary of facts from the videos (subsequent videos will play following the one featured) :
Video 1: The Leptospirosis bacteria is found in animal urine. Leptospirosis is caught by contact and particularly from standing waters in pastures eg after flooding … (3.23 in the video).
It is found in areas stricken by routine flooding. NZ has the highest rate each year!! (at 6.30 in the video).
113 were diagnosed with Leptospirosis in 2012 in NZ, is likely higher, and more than half were farmers.
At 1.55 the most affected categories are listed, one of which is ‘swimming in infected lakes & rivers’.
Leptospirosis can lead to a few days to a life time’s illness. It has flu like symptoms. 5.35.
Video 4 Weather can create an outbreak for example in sheep following flooding of pastures like the February 2004 floods in the Manawatu. The backteria can live outside the host for a time then animals grazing & drinking ingest them. At 3.07 in the video, those at risk are recreational land & water users.
Video 6 Keep mouth eyes cuts etc clear to avoid exposure (1.30). If diagnosed early enough it can be treated with antibiotics.
Video 7 4.08 The need to look at risk factors in the farming community, particularly dairy farming and at 4.40 the need to understand the link between wildlife, humans & livestock, the risks for farmers and what wild life are acting as reservoirs.
How the Manawatu & Horowhenua Waterways are Polluted
Now, to join some dots … if you have watched any of Cr Feyen’s videos you will note that flooding features frequently in the information. He’s filmed videos that illustrate the filth that is dumped at river mouths following flooding. Farming, sewage and industrial discharge, often untreated, goes straight into the rivers. There you have the perfect conditions for these nasties to proliferate. Watch and see a flush of farm effluent and hear the graphic description. See also the discharge of raw sewage (filmed by Cr Campbell) into the local stream.
Enough information there then to influence your decision about whether or not to swim in the Manawatu River, or any NZ river for that matter? Remember, only around 40% of them are deemed healthy enough now to swim in anyway. So much for the clean green image that is portrayed abroad. NZ is not clean and green, not by any wild stretch of the imagination. With local body elections coming up, find out which of your proposed reps will make changes to this broken system and vote for them.
We need to make a stand against this ongoing corporate pollution, particularly that done by the very organizations that claim to be using sustainable practices.
Here we have an article from the Manawatu Standard (under ‘opinion’) that is rare in its honesty, about the machinations of our environmental ‘protection’ agencies in drawing environmental protection groups into their fold. It’s called ‘collaboration’ but is not what it seems, as the article very honestly points out, titling the collaboration process ‘unmitigated bull faeces’. How refreshing to hear such truth. Our Councils and Horizons pay lip service to environmental protection, bandying around the Agenda 21 catchwords, ‘sustainable development’ and ‘smart growth’ all the while continuing on their ‘polluting for personal profit’ trajectory. If you want to see extreme water pollution, check out Lake Horowhenua, once the pristine food basket of local people Muaupoko, it’s been polluted for decades with human faeces, never mind bull faeces, although some of that goes in there as well. We’ve
also watched this recently with the leachate saga at the Bonny Glen landfill where the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ has allowed unknown amounts of toxic leachate, over and beyond the consent levels, into the Rangitikei waterways. And the powers that be continue to drag the chain with their hands firmly in the pockets of the landfill corporation. Equally farcical was the ‘independent’ consent hearing; it was held 45 minutes travel from those it affected most, and anybody who attended could see it was a done deal, the chair saying on one occasion ‘when the consents are granted’, a Freudian slip he quickly corrected. This has all been going on since the late ’80s and particularly since our country became a registered corporation owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Corporations require profits not clean environments, however they strategically put up a smokescreen that provides the illusion they want to protect the environment, pretending to collaborate, as this article from the Manawatu Standard points out, particularly in the fact that one of the collaborators has resigned … “Fish & Game’s chief executive Bryce Johnson said changes to the forum’s rules around membership and restrictions on the ability to speak out had “essentially compelled us to resign”… ” read more
It can take some effort to find a ‘healthy’ commercially-prepared substitute for cow’s milk. One will go through a number of different milk products before even finding which is best; but know this, there is an alternative to conventional cow’s milk that stands out above the rest.