About the project
- The purpose of this project is to create a new solution for minimising and managing sludge so we can reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
- The project is already underway. In December Council approved the construction of a sludge minimisation facility. A solution is expected to be in place by 2026.
- This project ties to Te Atakura: First to Zero plan and our Regional Waste Minimisation and Management Plan.
Sludge is the term for the solids produced from the wastewater treatment process. Untreated it contains microbiological contaminants that need to be disposed of in a well-managed way. Together with its high moisture content it is not an easy material to dispose of and can create odour if not treated appropriately.
How sludge is currently managed
More than a million litres of sludge per day is usually piped 9km from the wastewater treatment plant at Moa Point to Carey’s Gully sludge dewatering plant at the Southern Landfill. Once some of the water is removed, about 45 tonnes of solids per day are buried in the landfill and the water returned to Moa Point via the wastewater network.
For appropriate landfill management (including pathogen control) the sludge must be mixed with "clean" solid general waste for disposal in the landfill. That mix ratio is no less than 4:1 general waste to sludge and is a condition of the current landfill consent.
- The need to mix the sludge with solid waste at Southern Landfill makes it difficult to operate the landfill. It also limits the Council’s ability to achieve its waste minimisation and carbon emissions reduction targets.
- In our current Waste Management and Minimisation Plan (WMMP) we have committed to reducing the volume of waste going to landfill by one third, yet volumes of sludge are increasing with population growth.
- The existing consents at the Southern Landfill are due to expire in April 2026, and a new sludge management solution is required to support the consenting of future waste disposal options.
- The disposal of sludge to landfill creates methane emissions which contribute to climate change.
- We also need to consider the vulnerability of the sludge pipelines that currently carry sludge from Moa Point to Carey's Gully. The pipes failed in January 2020 resulting in a sludge trucking operation over several months until the pipes were fixed.
We need to create a new solution for minimising and managing sludge which will:
- Reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfill.
- Break the link between sludge and the landfill.
- Reduce the carbon emissions from sludge processing and disposal.
- Minimise odour generation.
- Increase the resilience of the overall sludge management process.
- Align with mana whenua values.
What’s happened so far
Wellington Water considered a range of viable options for a new sludge minimisation plant, to be located at either Carey's Gully or at Moa Point. They then worked with representatives from Wellington City Council, mana whenua, and local and international technical experts to identify a preferred option.
We have been actively engaging with the local community since late 2020.
In April 2022, we sought ratepayer feedback on the use of the Infrastructure Funding and Finance Act (IFFA) to finance the development of the new facility.
The business case, including the selection of the preferred option, was approved by the Council in June 2022.
From mid-August to late-September 2022, submissions were open on the Notice of Requirement for an alteration to Designation 58 (WCC6 under Proposed District Plan) for the construction, operation and maintenance of a new Sludge Minimisation Facility (SMF) at 127 and 141 Stewart Duff Drive.
In August, the Council considered options for an IFFA levy proposal to fund the facility, including levy design options, ahead of a potential decision to submit a levy proposal in December. Any IFFA transaction will require approval by the Minister of Finance and, in particular, a positive recommendation to approve the levy proposal by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development as Recommender under the IFFA, approval by the IFFA Minister and the support of Cabinet in enacting the Order in Council for an IFFA Project. A summary of the August Council paper can be found below.
Sludge Minimisation Facility Project Funding (312KB PDF)
In December 2022 the Council approved the construction of the new sludge minimisation facility at Moa Point.
The option we selected
The option we’ve decided on is a process facility that includes hydrolysis, anaerobic digestion, dewatering and thermal drying.