Duck Pond Pollution No Quack-up

3 February 2009

Wellington City Council is urging local residents to be careful to stop pollutants - such as paint, oil and detergent - from washing down our stormwater drains, after recent incidents where the Botanic Garden Duck Pond was polluted by stormwater discharges.

Botanic Gardens Manager David Sole says the pond collects water from the Pipitea and Puketea streams, which have their 'headwaters' in Kelburn and Northland. "The stormwater drains in Kelburn and Northland run directly into these streams - so any material washed down the street gutters and drains in this area will end up polluting the streams and pond before eventually entering the harbour."

David says the Council recently heard from a number of residents who were alarmed to find the Duck Pond discoloured by a cloudy white substance - presumably paint.

The local restoration group Friends of Owhiro Stream has also expressed concerns about the demise of native fish populations in the stream, which flows from Brooklyn to Owhiro Bay, due to pollution.

The Council's Environment Portfolio Leader, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, says many people appear to think that stormwater drains lead to treatment plants - but this is not the case. "The stormwater system is only for pure rainwater. When pollutants get into the system it means almost instant contamination of our streams, harbours and beaches."

Common pollutants that enter our stormwater system include:

  • detergents from washing cars on the roadside
  • left-over paint and water used to wash paint brushes
  • used engine oil, oil leaks and spills, and anti-freeze from radiator water
  • waste cement and concrete from washing-down during building and renovation work
  • litter, cigarette butts and dog droppings from pavements and roads.

Frequent offenders include both homeowners and tradespeople. Stories of painters, plasterers and cleaners washing gear on the street, and pouring waste down gutters, are relatively common.

Cr Wade-Brown says these people should realise their actions are not just illegal. "They are poisoning the animals and plants that live in our waterways and ultimately making life very unpleasant for swimmers too."

She says there are some easy steps people can take to help keep our waterways clean:

  • if possible, clean your car on a lawn, or take it to the car wash
  • sweep up grass clippings and leaves and put them on your garden
  • clean paint brushes in the laundry sink
  • take household chemicals, waste oil and the like to the hazardous waste section at the landfill
  • shovel up soil, rubbish and cement when you build.

People who are caught pouring waste down stormwater drains are likely to face prosecution and hefty fines. If you see someone polluting our stormwater system, call the Greater Wellington Regional Council Pollution Hotline on 0800 496 734.

For more information about our stormwater system, and how to help conserve our environment, visit the Greater Wellington Regional Council's 'Be the Difference' website.