Hutt City Council is back in the proverbial.
After seven weeks and $500,000 spent fixing the Hutt Valley’s main sewerage pipeline, a new leak means council workers must walk all 18 kilometres of the waste expressway to plug the holes.
The first sign of the problem came on Saturday morning when effluent bubbled to the surface near the centre of Eastbourne while the pipe was being refilled. Despite this saga, the council says the pipeline is in “good condition” and that talk of a $20 million replacement is premature. About 2.5 million cubic metres of treated effluent has poured into Wellington Harbour since the first leak was found in March and the pipeline shut down. More than 1 million cubic metres will follow suit over an extra month of repairs, that will cost at least another $100,000. While the last repair job used CCTV cameras to identify leaks, this time council workers will physically walk the pipeline to spot any missed leaks.
Council city services general manager Bruce Sherlock said the first round of repairs which identified 11 leaks was finished last week. Refilling of the pipeline was about two-thirds complete when the new leak surfaced near Rimu St in the central shopping area of Eastbourne. Unlike most of the other leaks, the latest one stemmed from a crack in the pipeline and would require excavation work, Mr Sherlock said. “It’s frustrating … We regret it obviously and, once again, we’ll work as quickly as we can to get it fixed.”
The pipeline had since been emptied again at discharge points along the coastline. As a precaution, signs were put up at several bays warning people not to swim or collect shellfish in the area. However, he said all of the council’s tests had shown negligible health risks from the effluent which was usually of a higher quality than Wellington Harbour after a storm. Asked if the new leak meant the pipeline should be replaced, Mr Sherlock said the council’s position had not changed. “We’ve done the CCTV inspection, which confirmed what we already thought, which is that the pipe itself is in good condition.” But the walk-through could still provide new information, he said.
Eastbourne Community Board chairman Ian Young said the repeated discharges were concerning though a council engineer had briefed him on the pipeline. “It’s just fortunate it’s in the middle of winter when fewer people are going swimming.” Most residents wanted to avoid the huge disruption of having the entire pipeline replaced, he said.