Wastewater plant dealing with avian botulism outbreak

Council has actioned its avian botulism management plan to deal with an outbreak of avian botulism among water fowl at its wastewater treatment plants.

The Te Aroha and Matamata treatment plants have both been affected by the disease, which affects wildlife but is not considered a risk to human health.

“We detected the outbreak on Tuesday morning and began implementing the botulism management plan,” said Matamata-Piako Chief Executive Don McLeod.

“We found a number of dead ducks at the Matamata plant on Tuesday and the Te Aroha plant on Wednesday and as per the Te Aroha plant’s Resource Consent conditions, we notified the Regional Council and Fish and Game. We also voluntarily supplied information on the Matamata plant, although that is not a condition of consent.

“We instituted noise dispersal procedures to scare birds away from both plants over the past few days but bird populations continue to be affected. We believe the outbreak is being managed, but we will continue monitoring and scaring birds off.

“We are aware of similar instance of dead water fowl being found in the Te Aroha wetlands, which are across the Waihou River from the treatment ponds. That is a likely risk as the current favourable conditions for outbreaks of avian botulism apply to the wetland environment also. These include declining water levels, warm water temperatures, and still, shallow water with decaying vegetation.

“There have also been outbreaks in neighbouring districts. Normally this happens when there is a particularly warm summer. There is little we can do to prevent the disease happening, and all we can do is try to contain an outbreak, which is what we are doing.”