29 Feb 2020

Wellington water woes: Investigations under way into causes of problems

6:13 pm on 29 February 2020

Investigations are underway into the cause of problems with Wellington's waterpipes after an increase in faecal bacteria that forced the closure of a popular swimming spot.

Steve Hutchison from Wellington Water holding some sludge.

Sludge. Another broken wastewater pipe is causing sludge to leak out. Photo: RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell

Regular testing found problems at two places in the region which could indicate wastewater contamination.

Wellington's water infrastructure has been plagued by burst sewerage pipes and outages in recent months.

Just days before Christmas, a sewerage pipe caved in in the CBD under Dixon Street spilling millions of litres of raw waste into the harbour.

Another broken wastewater pipe at Moa Point on the south coast has trucks hauling a million litres of sludge to the landfill every day.

The bursts and leaks have been compounded by long-standing issues coming to light over the past month.

In Owhiro Bay, residents said they were fed up of the two decades-long fight to get clean water. Water in the bay often reaches unsafe levels of e-coli.

Wellington Sewage pipe blockage

A warning sign on the Wellington waterfront after issues in late December. Photo: RNZ/ Rob Dixon

Wellington Water will today be removing warning signs at Titahi Bay beach in Porirua warning the public not to swim, fish or gather kaimoana there.

Regular water quality monitoring at Titahi Bay had shown an increase in faecal coliforms, but Wellington Water said it was removing the signs after two consecutive days of sampling results that showed water was now within bathing guidelines.

It said the contamination source was still unknown and it would continue with daily sampling for the next week as a precautionary measure.

Wellington Water said people should still stay out of the water at the Tory Street culvert outlet by Te Papa although it is not considered to be a regular swimming spot.

It will sample at the Oriental Bay and the Whairepo Lagoon as a precaution but did not expect those areas to be affected due to dilution.

It said the problems at both sites could takes days or even weeks solve.

Check out the LAWA Can I Swim Here guide for safe places to take a dip around the country.

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