Geothermal activity likely cause of Tokaanu wastewater spill

​​UPDATE 11.25am Saturday, February 10: 

Test results are back and the temporary health warning against swimming has been lifted.


Friday, February 9 2018 

​A wastewater spill to the Tokaanu stream at the southern end of Lake Taupo last night is thought to have been caused by a split pipe made britt​le by geothermal activity. 

Operational services group manager Kevin Strongman said the council was alerted to the break at the corner of Matariki and Kopu streets about 5pm after a passing motorist raised the alarm.  

"We are really thankful this person contacted us as our community are our eyes and ears when a pipe breaks," said Mr Strongman.  "We want to encourage more people to let us know if they see something that is not the norm as we would rather respond and find its nothing than end up with a sizeable incident," he said. 

Contractors had responded quickly and door knocked on 23 properties downstream from where the spill occurred.  They were returning to the area today to offer advice to property owners with thermal pools and to offer assistance to clean or treat the pools if needed. 

Mr Strongman said the leak was stopped soon after contractors arrived and repairs were made within a few hours.  "We suspect the 60 degree heat underground compromised the integrity of the pipe so we will be doing some further work in the area to determine if there are any other pipes affected in the same way," he said. 

While the warm water was likely to have reduced bacteria levels in the stream, it was not hot enough to kill any pathogens in the water so signs had been erected in the area warning against swimming as a precautionary measure.  It was not known whether the spill had reached the lake. 

Water samples had been taken and testing would continue in the area over the next few days. 

Chief executive Gareth Green said the council was working on a comprehensive plan to tackle wastewater spills and would be consulting with the community in March about increasing the amount currently spent on preventative work. 

"We acknowledge there has been far too many spills into our lake and waterways and we want them to stop," he said.  

As half the number of spills were caused by tree roots, wipes or fat blocking the pipes, the first priority would be to increase the amount of camera surveillance and to use block detection technology to ensure any potential issues are known of and dealt to early.  More work was also being done to assess the condition of the pipes so they were replaced in a more timely way.  

"While there are other factors that can cause spills we cannot control, like the effect of nature or the actions of others, like our community we're saying enough is enough," said Mr Green. 

"We are committed to doing all that we can to prevent them happening in the future." 

9 February 2018 

Lisa NairneCommunications manager 07 376 0762 027 839 8410

Page reviewed: 12 Feb 2018 8:47am