“If you’re out in the water and taking particles of faeces into your mouth, of course you’re going to get sick.” So says Mark Nichols, Nelson Boardriders Surf Club president. The town of Nelson sits in front of Tasman Bay on New Zealand’s South Island, an area known for it’s pristine air and water.
It seems, though, that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Just under half a mile to the north of Schnappers Point where Nichols has been surfing for much of his life, there is a sewage outfall pipe. For years, it released the treated waste into the sea without much of an issue. But recently, swimmers and surfers in the area are running into things in the water they most definitely don’t want to be running into… like human shit. “Surfers are noticing floating human faeces next to them, bobbing up and down in the water,” Nichols told Radio New Zealand. He suspects there is raw sewage being released directly into the water, due to a nearby waste water treatment plant’s inability to deal with an increasing population and this season’s heavy rains.
Alec Louverdis, the infrastructure manager for the area, doesn’t think the increase in waste in the line up could be coming from the plant. “It passes through pre-screening, a trickling filter, a clarifier, it passes through two series of oxidation ponds, it makes it way through a wetland,” he said. “No, we don’t believe it’s possible.”
Louverdis went on to say that the issue could stem from vessels dumping their toilet tanks off shore, and that the council has done everything they’re required to do. “Ever since we’ve upgraded the ponds, and we’ve done substantial work on them – we’ve added aeration, we’ve de-sludged the ponds,” he explained. “We’re adhering to all the resource consent conditions in terms of deliverables and measurables and there’s no indication that anything entering into the plant has had an adverse affect on our ability to treat waste water.”
Still, though, the problem is there. Surfers at one of the South Islands finest waves are literally swimming in shit. “Schnappers Point, where the plant is, is the only place to surf in Nelson and it’s a really good wave,” said Nichols. “It seems a shame it gets spoiled.”