Pollution at Auckland's Chelsea Bay ponds leaves locals angry with councilDead eels, paralysed ducks and violently green water has left some Chelsea Bay locals concerned the pollution in the ponds surrounding the iconic sugar factory is getting out of control.

A number of ponds near the Chelsea Sugar Factory on Auckland’s North Shore play host to a raft of native and exotic fish species.

However, locals are concerned the wildlife is in danger because they feel Auckland Council is not doing enough to stop pollutants getting in the pond.

Resident Doug Waters said every summer the water gets an algal bloom, but this season the pollution seemed particularly bad.

“I don’t think the council are even going anywhere near to do doing enough. The bottom line is there should not be that degree of algal bloom. I think they are treating the ponds as waste water plants.”

On a daily basis, dead or sick ducks were being pulled from the water, along with eels, Waters said. The ducks were likely getting sick from avian botulism, which can leave them paralysed.

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Raw sewage had leaked into the ponds, along with litter and other contaminants, Waters said. When it rained, the water in the ponds spilled over into the sea at Chelsea Bay which left Waters wondering if wider bay was being polluted.

“From time to time I swim across Chelsea Bay, but you are swimming through an area which is potentially toxic. People walk their dogs down there at low tide, and the dogs splash in that water, and people walk through the water. It is a health hazard.”

While the ponds sit close to the sugar factory, they are the responsibility of the Auckland Council. Another local, who did not want to be named, said it was the council, not Chelsea, who needed to clean up their act.

“If anyone should be doing the right thing it is Auckland Council,” she said.

“Any waterway has got to be protected, you have a special waterway with significant fish in it, they are allowing it to be polluted, and that pollution is going out in the sea – and area which is used a lot for recreation. You could say the sea is so big it can cope, but it is all incremental.”

However, Auckland Council General Manager for Healthy Waters Craig Mcilroy said they had not received any reports of dead or sick wildlife.

“We have not received reports of wildlife getting sick at this site,” he said.

In order to prevent the spread of duck botulism and other related toxins, the council suggests members of the public pick up their pets’ waste and dispose of it.

They also advise against feeding ducks.

People should report sightings of sick or dead ducks, or even swans, to the council on 09 301 0101.

Mcilroy said they were alerted to a leak in a wastewater pipe at Chelsea Bay on Friday, January 12, but it had since been fixed.

“Once alerted to the leak, Watercare crew attended the site, stopped the leak and repaired the pipe by Friday evening. We are currently awaiting reinstatement.”

Mcilroy added that there were two culverts leaking nutrients into the pond from a nearby landfill site, which was likely a “major factor” in causing the algal bloom.

“The council’s Healthy Waters team is currently working on redirecting the culverts, which should make a significant impact on reducing the nutrients entering the ponds and solve the algal bloom issue.

“We expect to finish this project by the end of 2018,” he said.

Sylvia Durrant, who helps care for sick birds, said a mixture of high temperatures and low water levels often caused botulism to spread.

“When the water levels go down, the ducks eat off the bottom of pond which is where the toxins live.”

Over the past three weeks, Durrant had cared for twenty ducks from the Chelsea Bay ponds. She believed it wasn’t just the council’s responsibility, but also the public’s.

“Whenever anyone tips something down the gutter, or litters it ends up in the ponds. It’s not just the council’s fault.”

According to the Chelsea Sugar Factor website, the ponds have large koi carp and short and long-finned eels, along with native fish species include inanga, kokopu and common bully.

Article by Tommy Livingston
Published 17 January 2018 > Business Day – stuff.co.nz