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Parklands meetings raise concerns about new pressure wastewater systems

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Two meetings held by SCIRT recently in Parklands to talk to residents about the new wastewater system planned for their area have raised some concerns.

So why is SCIRT rolling out these systems city-wide?

Mark Christison, Christchurch City Council Water and Waste Manager, says pressure wastewater systems are the most resilient solution for households in areas with land damage, prone to liquefaction following the earthquakes.

“In the event of further sizeable aftershocks, we do not want householders reliant again upon chemical tanks and portable toilets for months on end.

“We want Christchurch people to have more resilient wastewater systems which can be quickly checked and fixed if there is further ground movement. We need to build in better protection for householders and for the city’s infrastructure. These pressure wastewater systems are also being used elsewhere in brand new subdivisions.”

Mr Christison said he understood that new wastewater systems were yet another change for people after the quakes. But the city had changed for ever and to not adapt and do better than before would be remiss of any council acting in the best interests of its residents.

“To replace the existing gravity system with the same system in areas where gravity has failed would be a disservice to those householders, and potentially a huge waste of ratepayer funds. 

“Hence the alternative, more resilient wastewater systems which SCIRT is rolling out in several areas of the city.”

Mr Christison also noted that although individual properties may not have suffered much liquefaction, if their wastewater pipes ran through areas where there had been damage, they would still need to change. “We have to look at the whole network to come up with the best solutions.”

Why not on the street berm?

Some residents at the Parklands meetings asked why the tanks could not be located in the street berm, away from their private land.
“The pressure wastewater tank has to be located as close to the house as possible to minimise the potential for damage if there is future land movement,” said Mr Christison. “It is also sensible for the householder as it reduces the cost to them of maintaining the shorter pipe to the tank and the council then maintains the pressure pipe to the street. 

“The street berm is often not an option as it contains telecommunications cables, electricity, gas and other utility lines, as well as other water pipes.

What about the look of the tank?

“Once in the ground, only the lid of the tank is visible. They do not smell, are safe for all households and can be tidily landscaped. Anyone buying a home with a pressure tank knows that they are getting a more resilient wastewater system, which is good for future security.

Southshore resident Mark Smith's pressure tank installed at the side of his property at the end of 2012.

Communication at the heart of installations

“Installing these new pressure wastewater systems requires a lot of communication with land owners, which is why they cannot all be installed at the one time across a large area like Parklands. Currently SCIRT’s Fletcher delivery team is working on two areas of Parklands totalling about 800 properties. Each property requires a consent agreement between the council and the property owner as to the location of the tank and its placement on their land. Householders and land owners are a key part of the process.

“By staging the delivery in groups, people get a better opportunity to have face-to-face meetings and one-on-one conversations with the delivery teams and the wastewater engineers who can explain why the system chosen is the best one.

“In this case in Parklands, a resident distributed part of the SCIRT information she had received to a large number of addresses. This meant that some households not getting pressure wastewater systems received her partial photocopy and subsequently turned up to last week’s meetings worried they had been left out of the loop. Some people in an adjoining pressure wastewater area, who have yet to receive the invitation related to their area, received the partial notice and also become worried they were missing out.

“Everyone needs to get the same information and have the opportunity to talk it over. We are doing our best to ensure consistency and active, accurate communication.”

He urged land owners to read their information kits and attend meetings with an open mind so they would understand the benefits of the new wastewater systems and why they were needed.

Where else is pressure wastewater going in?

SCIRT’s Fulton Hogan delivery team has just begun work on several hundred installations across Southshore with several meetings held last year and a huge amount of community discussion. The local residents’ group put a tank at their community house garage so residents could fully understand what is involved.

Another area of Parklands would also get pressure wastewater systems mid-year, with communication with residents from May. This was in the design phase at SCIRT. It involved 800 households. Adjoining areas of Bower Avenue and North New Brighton would be included in this work package, a total of 1450 properties.

SCIRT’s City Care delivery team is completing the first group of pressure wastewater tanks being installed in Halswell – a process which started earlier last year.

Other areas of the city which are getting pressure wastewater systems are east Avondale,
parts of New Brighton, as well as parts of Hoon Hay, Richmond, Shirley and Woolston.

Background – other resilient wastewater systems for Christchurch
• The more resilient wastewater systems include enhanced gravity (for areas where there is least damage); vacuum systems (restricted by the availability of pump station sites in the right location to service many households) and pressure wastewater systems.

Read earlier stories on the SCIRT web about a pressure installation in Southshore and the earlier work in Halswell.

Published: 19 February 2013