Auckland sewage spill 'one of the worst'

7:57 pm on 31 January 2018

Residents of the Auckland suburb of Milford want to know why it took eight hours for Watercare to stop a sewage leak that pumped raw effluent into their homes and gardens.

The site of the sewage leak in Alma Rd, North Shore.

The site of the sewage leak in Alma Rd, North Shore. Photo: RNZ / Nikki Mandow

A sewage pipe burst in Alma Road at 2am on Sunday, but it was not until about 10am - eight hours later - that Watercare got the leak under control.

Resident Carole Pilcher told RNZ that she and other neighbours made numerous phone calls, but although firefighters arrived and then "one man in a van", no one did anything for hours.

"[The initial workman] didn't know what to do, I don't think, or he had been phoning people but no one was turning up. And that sewage flowed from around 2 o'clock to 10 o'clock in the morning.

"Watercare did arrive, about 8 o'clock, and then we had a lot of people arrive, but the sewage still flowed. And as [other residents in the neighbourhood] got up, and they were using the toilets, and showering, so the torrent actually increased.

"We noticed it increasing because it started coming over towards our garage."

Ms Pilcher says her neighbour, who had sewage in his house, was begging Watercare to turn off machinery at the pumping station that was pushing the sewage onto their properties.

However no one seemed to be able to give authority for this to be done.

Ms Pilcher, who is a healthcare professional by trade, said the leak was "a major health hazard".

She is calling on council to ensure an efficient, coordinated process to deal with sewage spills in the future.

"I want something like an emergency response team, involving the council, Watercare, and the fire brigade. I want efficient effort. I don't want one man in a van."

Watercare spokeswoman Maxine Clayton said this was one of the worst spills Auckland had seen in the last 25 years in terms of the direct impact on residents.

She said the leak was originally reported as being water and that initially a water specialist was sent out, only to find out the leak was actually wastewater. They needed to call upon a different team.

The repairs were hampered because the pipe was close to a major electrical line, meaning crews needed permission from Vector to proceed, Ms Clayton said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs