One of the country’s most senior leaders has offered about 14 hectares of land to government in a circuit-breaking step that should remove the need for a sewage outfall pipe north of Avana.
After hearing concerns from neighbours unhappy at a treatment plant in residential Turangi, Pa Ariki’s representatives have met with deputy project manager Tangianau Taoro to make the offer.
If the new land is deemed suitable, it would mean a wastewater treatment plant for the resort town of Muri could be built away from families, up in the valley behind Turangi; once the sewage is treated it could then be dispersed into land further up the valley.
According to government’s Project Management Unit, the lands have been considered in the Environmental Impact Assessment report as potential land for the wastewater treatment plant.
Landowner Sam Napa Jr, the son of Pa Ariki, said they were conscious of neighbours’ concerns.
He fully supported a land-based disposal option, but was concerned that engineers were still guessing at solutions. “During the meeting, my mum and aunties were asking a lot of technical questions that they couldn’t answer,” he said.
Pa Ariki had previously offered up an old landfill site in Turangi, which has been intensively drilled and sampled over the past two months. That would not now be used for the wastewater plant, Napa said. Instead, it had been confirmed safe to build on and he had plans to possibly develop the land.
Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai is set to present the Environmental Impact Assessment report to the Cook Islands Government soon. However, the Unit emphasised government had not made a decision on the disposal options and that decision won’t be made for a long time. “Regardless of the disposal option, a treatment plant will be required for either option.”
There are strong calls advising the government to consider land based disposal, which is preferred by the PMU and its consultants, rather than an ocean outfall.
The land-based disposal involves either spraying treated wastewater onto land using an irrigation system, or drip-feeding it beneath the soil using irrigation pipes. The Unit has concluded that the sub-soil drip-feed option is more suitable for Rarotonga.
Earlier the issue was the lack of suitable land but, after this week’s critical meeting with landowners, this could now be a viable option. The clear preference of the community was for land-based disposal of treated septic wastewater, the Unit said.
The ocean outfall option – disposing of treated wastewater through a 300-metre pipe out past the reef – was rejected by the community.