Second sewage spill in two months ‘not good enough’

The final report on the sewage spill into Raglan Harbour at Easter still hasn’t hit desks, and already Waikato District Council (WDC) are frantically working on another.

On Thursday last week at about 1pm, waste water flowed out of a manhole next to a pump station at the corner of Whitley St and Wainui Rd.

WDC says the overflow happened during a period of high rainfall, and it is estimated that about 2000 litres was discharged into the nearby catchpit, which then emptied into the harbour.

“Council will be in a better position to give a more accurate level of discharge once further investigation has taken place,” it advised in a media release.

Two months ago, in March on Good Friday, untreated waste water flowed into the harbour after the main inlet pipe to Marine Parade pump station collapsed.

Questions put to the council on Monday by the Chronicle about the cause of Thursday’s spill and the integrity of the system had not been answered.

Councillor Clint Baddeley says the latest sewage spill is not good enough, and the integrity of Raglan’s system is questionable.

Mr Baddeley says the spill was thought to be a cause of the combination of heavy rain and an impeller – which helps pump the wastewater to storage units – not working properly.

Explanations for the failings are needed, he says. “They are happening too often.”

Raglan Community Board deputy chairman Bob MacLeod says council staff had gone into “silent mode” again with the latest spill.

Mr MacLeod says they were blaming heavy rain but his water gauge didn’t show anything unusually excessive.

“Water shouldn’t even be getting into the waster water system.”

Mr MacLeod says the community board was guaranteed that it had a good, working system and “then this happens”.

“It amazes me! We were told (at the last community board meeting) that our system was a grade two – one of the best.

“That’s all new piping along Wainui Rd, not even three years old. And we still have another failure.

“And again (council service delivery general manager) Tim Harty is saying we will review this …

“We haven’t even had the final report on the Easter spill.

“This year is an election year and it will be good … someone has to come up with some answers.”

Raglan Community Board chairman Alan Vink says he has been trying to get his head around Raglan’s sewage system since the Easter spill, and thinks it is just “the nature of the beast”.

“I know now having done the research that this is not unusual.

“In the last couple of weeks there will have been a number of spills around New Zealand, guarantee it.

He says part of the problem is that over the years, all sorts of storm water and waste water systems have been put in Raglan that haven’t been done properly.

“Sometimes storm water gets put into waste water and this is part of the problem.”

People do it without council’s knowledge, he says.

Mr Vink says Raglan’s sewage system is doing a better than average job. “The overall condition is not too bad but it is old”.

Following the Easter spill there were many complaints about the way council handled the situation: not informing the community board or harbour users, and not enough signs.

This time, they “were on to it immediately and we were all informed”, Mr Vink says.

Signs were put in place last Friday advising the community not to swim, fish or collect shellfish in Raglan Harbour until further notice.

Council has been undertaking daily testing of water in the harbour since Friday, with confirmed results available later this week.

“These results will tell us how long the advisory signs need to be in place for.”

Council is now preparing a report on the latest spill, which will also be shared with the community board and key stakeholders.

Inger Vos

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