There’s zero chance of Raglan having zero sewage spills, the community board was told at its meeting last week.
Waikato District Council service delivery manager Tim Harty, who was grilled by community board members about the incident report on the overflow of untreated wastewater into the harbour during Easter, said a target of zero spills was “impossible”.
“I’m just being open and honest … I was (once) the bloke cleaning the pump stations.”
The report by AECOM New Zealand Ltd, which has been a long time coming for the Raglan Community Board, was tabled at the meeting on Tuesday last week.
The report says pipeline failure was the root cause of the spill, which saw about 38 cubic metres of wastewater enter the harbour estuary near the Marine Parade pump station.
The community board, which is still waiting for a report on a second sewage spill into the harbour on May 26, wants council to be transparent regarding Raglan’s sewage system, and wants assurance that such spills will not happen again.
Both times, a ban was put on swimming and taking seafood from the harbour, and, thanks to social media, there are community fears that Raglan is becoming better known for its sewage spills than its surf.
At the meeting, councillor Clint Baddeley called for a zero tolerance towards wastewater spills, and said the onus was on council to supply a sewage system that the community could have confidence in.
The report notes that the failed section of pipeline, which was about 40 years old, was badly corroded and leaking.
Although, Waikato District Council takes scheduled replacements of pipes, based on age, criticality, condition and available funding, the failed pipeline was between two newer structures, and was not recorded as “a separate asset”.
Over time, soil had entered the pipeline and had inundated and blocked the pumps.
The report says the pump station did not have the recommended volume of emergency storage, which would increase the time available to take action in the event of pump failure. Ironically, contractors were working on putting in extra storage at the corner of Marine Parade and Nihinihi Ave at the time of the spill.
The report also notes that had an alarm been programmed into the system, then this would have notified of an impending overflow. A telemetry high level alarm callout function has since been put in.
Mr Harty told the meeting that it was impossible for council to be at all places at the same time, with regards to the workings of Raglan’s complex sewage system.
He said the council mandate, which came from central government, was to have no more than five spills per 1000 connections.
“So it is what it is. We don’t say it is our goal.”
The council had already had 58 overflows this year, he said, which equated to only 0.55 overflows per 1000 connections.
Of those 58 overflows, 47 were “very, very minor”.
“We have zero tolerance to not reporting – even an egg cup full.”
Four of the spills were due to breakages and five were mechanical issues.
Mr Harty said a “lion’s share” of the issues had to do with network blockages. “You can find almost everything down there.
“No-one is saying this is acceptable. It is a significant disappointment to us all.”
He said the Whitley St spill, just two months after the overflow at Marine Parade, was “demoralising”.
“We put a lot of time and energy into putting systems in place to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
He was expecting a report on the Marine Parade spill from Waikato Regional Council.
Bob MacLeod said he was upset at what Waikato District Council called “an acceptable level” of spills.
“You are expecting us to have between 10-13 spills and that’s OK?”