Fonterra pleads not guilty to buttermilk disposal and odor charges


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The Eltham Wastewater Treatment plant buttermilk pool was recently emptied.
The Eltham Wastewater Treatment plant buttermilk pool was recently emptied.
Fonterra has pleaded not guilty to nine charges related to the 2013 disposal of, and odor caused by, more than 3m litres of buttermilk and contaminated milk.

During an appearance at New Plymouth District Court earlier today, Fonterra pleaded not guilty to nine breaches of the New Zealand Resource Management Act. 

The charges, filed by the Taranaki Regional Council in July 2014, relate to the dumping of buttermilk and contaminated whole milk at the Eltham Waste Water Treatment plant in September 2013 and the subsequent odor created by the rotting dairy waste.

In September 2013, the South Taranaki District Council agreed to accept the waste to assist Fonterra in dealing with its excess production.

Just over 3m litres of buttermilk and an additional 150,000 litres of contaminated whole milk was transported from Fonterra’s nearby Hawera processing facility to Eltham.

Residential odor complaints began in late October 2013 and continued into 2014.

"Most regrettable"

Last month, the South Taranaki District Council pleaded guilty to one charge of discharging contaminants under the Resource Management Act.

It is due to be sentenced next month.

The case against Fonterra will recommence on October 24.

Fonterra declined to comment on the case when approached by

In June 2014, the South Taranaki District Council notified the public that the milk waste accepted from Fonterra had been removed from Eltham Wastewater Treatment plant.

In an accompanying open letter, Craig Stevenson, CEO, South Taranaki District Council, said that "approval never should have been given."

“The decision last year to accept the buttermilk has had considerable flow on effects and the most regrettable of these has been the negative impact on the quality of life, health and general well being of those residents who live in the vicinity of the Eltham wastewater plant," ​said Stevenson.

Lake of Buttermilk

The 'Lake of Buttermilk'

In October 2013, an investigation was launched into Fonterra's buttermilk disposal practices by Waikato Regional Council in response to concerns about the size of a dumping site dubbed the 'Lake of Buttermilk'.

In March 2013, having completed its investigation, it handed Fonterra a formal warning for breaches of the Resource Management Act.

Explaining its decision, the Waikato Regional Council was it was "satisfied"​ the approximate 5m litre 'Lake of Buttermilk' had not contaminated ground or surface water.

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