Faulty pipes could ping homeowners with bills of up to $10,000


By Emily Norman


Masterton homeowners could be landed with a big bill to help fix the district’s storm water problems.

A district-wide sewer lateral inspections programme is being considered by Masterton District Council, with individual homeowners set to front the costs of any repair work needed to be done.

Laterals are the pipes which carry waste from homes to the main sewerage system.

The proposed approach would involve identifying faulty laterals using “a range of methods”, and giving homeowners notice of six months to repair them.

It is hoped the outcome of doing so would reduce the amount of wastewater council had to treat and discharge, but it could land homeowners with a bill of between a few hundred dollars up to $10,000 or more depending on the work to be done.

And if a “significant” fault does not get fixed within six months of the council notice, the council will have it fixed at the homeowner’s expense.

Smaller unrepaired faults would go on the property’s LIM report.

MDC assets and operations manager David Hopman said the “refocused” sewer renewals programme would result in less leaks, less wastewater to treat, and less discharge into the river.

Mr Hopman said when it rained heavily, issues in the network, including faulty laterals, caused about three times Masterton’s average daily load to unnecessarily go through the sewer network, most of this being storm water.

“Obviously, the less water that needs to be treated, the lower the cost, and the less issues there are.”

He said since the Homebush consent was lodged eight years ago, the council has had “quite an extensive programme of sewer renewals” targeting the infiltration and inflow into sewers.

Over the last eight years, council has spent $16m on sewer work around Masterton, concentrating on the “poorest performing sewers”.

This work has reduced the inflow by about 18 per cent.

Mr Hopman said MDC was still committed to continuing with its renewal programme, but it is now looking at complementing this with the proposed lateral repair approach.

Prior to this proposal, council had used an “ad hoc” approach to identifying lateral faults.

“We’ve put out notices to fix, we’ve carried out campaigns with smoke testing and inspections, but what we’re proposing now is having a little bit more of a structured approach associated with inspection of boundary caps and where we do find a fault, look at putting a notice to all those properties.

“We’re looking at giving them six months to do that work, and if it’s a fault which is significantly contributing to our infiltration, if the work hasn’t been done by the property owner, the council will do it and then charge the property owner.”

He said repairs could range from being “very straightforward” and costing a few hundred dollars, “or it could be a complete replacement of the lateral costing $5000-$10,000”.

“Depending on the individual circumstance it could be a big number.”

Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson who was one of six councillors discussing the proposal at Wednesday’s Infrastructural Services Committee meeting said she was “really supportive” of the proposed approach, “because we have to do it”.

“We’re here to work with our community and need to communicate the importance of respecting the network to do this.”

South Wairarapa and Carterton homeowners are also responsible for the maintenance of their laterals, but councils did not require a coordinated campaign to locate faulty ones as they have no major issues with their network.

Carterton chief executive Jane Davis said the council hadn’t had any issues with sewer laterals for at least 12 years, and “probably longer than that”.

Some councils around the country are responsible for the laterals between the main system and the property boundary.

Wellington City Council is now considering moving to this system, away from the current system similar to that of the three Wairarapa councils.