Media release

Media release: ORC staff respond to three pollution incidents in Central Otago

Friday 20 January 2023

Calls to the Otago Regional Council’s Pollution Hotline on Thursday saw its Central Otago staff respond to three consecutive incidents, with separate complaints investigated over dirtied waterways, the presence of toxic algae and dead ducks.

Members of the public contacted the Pollution Hotline with complaints of domestic waste water entering Horne Creek near Queenstown, followed by staff visiting a creek at Hanleys Farm to confirm the presence of toxic algae, then an afternoon call out to reports of more than 10 dead ducks at Buckler Burn stream, near Glenorchy.

ORC’s Team Leader Compliance Monitoring, Chris McSweeney, says it was a busy day for Central Otago staff, some of whom attended more than one of the three incidents.

“It was one of the busiest days in recent years, with three separate call outs to respond to,” he says.

Water samples, including some tests for the presence of the toxic algae cyanobacteria, were taken at the three sites, with results due back in a week to 10-days; subject to lab availability.


Dangers of the toxic algae cyanobacteria

While results were still pending, Mr McSweeney emphasised the dangers to dogs with the presence of the toxic algae cyanobacteria becoming more common, from the combination of hotter days and waterways flows declining during summer.

People should not enter waterways where there are toxic algae signs in place.

People are asked to report complaints of environmental contamination to ORC’s Pollution Hotline, tel 0800 800 033.

Horne Creek, Hanleys Farm, Buckler Burn stream

At Horne Creek, McSweeney says there was a wastewater discharge from a domestic property, possibly because of a faulty cross connection during some plumbing work.

The Pollution Hotline was initially notified and ORC staff had also been in contact with Queenstown Lakes District Council staff on the matter; which is still being investigated.

He said at the next call out, ORC staff found toxic algae in the creek which runs through Hanleys Farm, near Bannister Street.

Following information from a member of the public, ORC investigated if toxic algae was in the creek, verifying the presence of Phormidium (cyanobacteria); which can be lethal to dogs if ingested.

He says warning signs have been erected, asking the public to keep animals away from the toxic algae.

Later in the day, Mr McSweeney says staff were sent to Glenorchy, following reports of a clutch of dead ducks at Buckler Burn.

An ORC staff member took water samples and collected the more than 10 dead ducks.

They will be given to the Department of Conservation, for disposal, but it may possibly order autopsies be carried out.

Mr McSweeney says there was no immediately obvious cause of death and ORC will be liaising with QLDC staff and sharing any findings.

More info on toxic algae.