An incident at Contact Energy's Wairakei geothermal operations has resulted in a slip that has sent muddy water flowing over the famous Huka Falls.
Contact Energy says the slip has flowed into a small stream that feeds the Waikato River, resulting in muddy water flowing over the falls.
The water flow has been contained and the muddy water is expected to clear quickly, the company said in a statement this evening.
The Waikato Regional Council had been notified and a pollution response team from Hamilton would be assessing the situation, John Clark, Contact Energy’s Head of Generation Geothermal Operations, said.
Contact Energy’s environmental specialists are also on site and investigating the situation, Mr Clark said.
“We are working with the local councils to assess the impact of this. We are conducting precautionary tests on the water and are working with stakeholders in the Wairakei area to ensure they are informed.” he said.
Mr Clark said the water supply to the majority of Taupō was unaffected, but Contact Energy was working with the local authorities to minimise the impact to those people whose water supply had been impacted or disrupted, as a precaution.
Waikato Regional Council is advising people immediately downstream of Huka Falls to be cautious about using river water following the discharge, which has caused brown discolouration.
The council confirmed it's working with Contact Energy to establish the circumstances around the incident.
However, it said initial reports suggest the wall of a holding pond failed late this morning and its contents entered a tributary that leads to the Waikato River upstream of Huka Falls.
Taupō-based regional council staff have this afternoon collected water samples for testing, with incident response staff also now at the scene.
The Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board has been advised of the incident, and Taupō District Council staff have also collected samples.
Council staff are attempting to contact water take consent holders immediately downstream of Huka Falls to alert them to the incident. In the meantime, caution is being advised for landowners and businesses operating downstream.
Taupō District Council has shut off its Centennial Drive water supply intake and is asking users of that scheme to conserve water.
The scheme supplies Centennial Drive and Rakaunui Road users, as well as the local golf club and the pool at the Top Ten Holiday Park. The district council has also cut supply of raw water to Owen Delaney Park, AC Baths, Tenon and Laminex in the interests of conserving water.
The district council is working on providing an alternative treated water supply from the Taupō town scheme to continue to provide treated water to those that need it.