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Wednesday, June 26, 2024
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Sewage solution: Further work required before residents get relief

Plumbing and drainage mistakes are “key contributors” to sewage flowing into Masterton backyards during heavy rain, the council says.

For many years, properties in the Cockburn St area have been flooded with wastewater during storms, leaving toilet paper and human waste floating in some people’s yards and forcing residents to use portaloos because their toilets don’t work.

A temporary medium-term solution for residents is now in place while a longer-term project is underway.

This involves Masterton District Council [MDC] confirming the sources of wastewater overflows and identifying the long-term solution and investment needed in the stormwater and wastewater network.

MDC infrastructure and assets manager Maseina Koneferenisi told councillors at a recent Infrastructure and Services meeting that “solid evidence” confirmed there are several cross-connections into the wastewater network.

“These are key contributors to overflow issues.”

A report to elected members said the council has been able to “get visibility of some, but there is likely a number that are beneath the ground — this will require physical work to confirm and remedy”.

Cross-connections are a common mistake with residential plumbing and drainage works.

In this case, stormwater pipes have been connected to the wastewater system.

A common source of cross- connections is downpipes diverted into the gully trap — a small drainage vent usually covered with a small grating and located against the outside of a house near the kitchen, laundry, or bathroom.

Wastewater and stormwater networks are separate, and it is the property owners’ responsibility to ensure they stay that way.

The Times-Age asked MDC if property owners will need to pay to fix these connections or if council will use ratepayer money to solve the problem.

An MDC spokesperson said the council will be taking “a collaborative approach” with the property owners, with each case considered on its merits.

Smoke testing has been underway to understand where inflow and infiltration may be happening and a “pilot trial” will soon begin in the area of Cockburn, Taranaki, and Kuripuni streets, and Okato and Patea places.

The trial will involve more detailed data collection using instruments and potentially a hydraulic model.

“This will help us identify the potential areas of concerns, zones of inefficiencies, and how the network behaves under a variety of scenarios and weather events,” the report to council stated.

Koneferenisi said council will then look at the numbers and solutions, and then consider the issue as part of the annual planning process.

“It will have to be a long-term project, I imagine, considering the potential costs related to that.”

An information evening for impacted residents at which a report from engineering company GHD will be shared will be held on June 12.

This report is an independent review and was commissioned in October by MDC chief executive Kym Fell.

Councillor Tim Nelson said he is pleased with the strategy and said communication with impacted residents is “incredibly important”.

“If they feel they are being listened to, they are going to feel like we’re actually taking their concerns into account, as opposed to fobbing them off, which I believe has happened in the past,” he said.

“This report here isn’t fobbing someone off, it’s actually addressing the issue that has been happening for many years.”

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell disagreed with Nelson’s use of the words “fobbing off”.

“I think certainly there could be an improvement in the communication for sure,” Caffell said.

“I’m not sure we would deliberately fob them off at any stage, but I think that we need to do better.” – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air connections is downpipes diverted into the gully trap — a small drainage vent usually covered with a small grating and located against the outside of a house near the kitchen, laundry, or bathroom.

Wastewater and stormwater networks are separate, and it is the property owners’ responsibility to ensure they stay that way.

The Times-Age asked MDC if property owners will need to pay to fix these connections or if council will use ratepayer money to solve the problem.

An MDC spokesperson said the council will be taking “a collaborative approach” with the property owners, with each case considered on its merits.

Smoke testing has been underway to understand where inflow and infiltration may be happening and a “pilot trial” will soon begin in the area of Cockburn, Taranaki, and Kuripuni streets, and Okato and Patea places.

The trial will involve more detailed data collection using instruments and potentially a hydraulic model.

“This will help us identify the potential areas of concerns, zones of inefficiencies, and how the network behaves under a variety of scenarios and weather events,” the report to council stated.

Koneferenisi said council will then look at the numbers and solutions, and then consider the issue as part of the annual planning process.

“It will have to be a long-term project, I imagine, considering the potential costs related to that.”

An information evening for impacted residents at which a report from engineering company GHD will be shared will be held on June 12.

This report is an independent review and was commissioned in October by MDC chief executive Kym Fell.

Councillor Tim Nelson said he is pleased with the strategy and said communication with impacted residents is “incredibly important”.

“If they feel they are being listened to, they are going to feel like we’re actually taking their concerns into account, as opposed to fobbing them off, which I believe has happened in the past,” he said.

“This report here isn’t fobbing someone off, it’s actually addressing the issue that has been happening for many years.”

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell disagreed with Nelson’s use of the words “fobbing off”.

“I think certainly there could be an improvement in the communication for sure,” Caffell said.

“I’m not sure we would deliberately fob them off at any stage, but I think that we need to do better.” – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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