Watercare Meetings

Regular meetings between representatives of our community and the agencies charged with caring for our awa are incredibly valuable. These hui provide opportunity to talk over problems, planned works and to hear progress on points discussed in previous meetings.

Meeting 17 February 2022 with Watercare Engineers and Planners

On 17 February 2022, Rivercare Group’s Chris Ballantyne, Alan Clist and Peter Nelson along with Chairman of Te Atatū Marae Coalition, David Tanenui, met with representatives of Watercare engineers and planners for a quarterly catch-up.

 

Before going into the details of the meeting, it’s important to recognise that the Wastewater Network Discharge Consent allows overflows from the network in wet weather events. These are restricted to two overflow events per year from engineered overflow points (EOPs). EOPs are essentially a relief system designed to allow controlled overflows to minimise the risk of uncontrolled overflows elsewhere in the network (e.g., private property). There are conditions within the consent for the installation of new EOPs and the management of EOPs that cannot meet the two overflows per year restriction. There are no direct controls in the consent conditions for managing uncontrolled wet weather overflows from non EOP locations. 

 

At this hui there were four areas of enquiry:

1. What is the plan and timeline for the programme of work that would allow for the removal of the EOP (Engineered Overflow Point) that currently discharges directly into the awa at XX (the concerned resident has requested the location not be publicly named) in Te Atatū Peninsula?

 

To understand the significance of this particular manhole and why it should be removed, we must go back in time. In September 2019, Rivercare Group joined a resident suffering from repeated raw sewage flowing onto their property, to meet with Watercare engineers and managers to discuss what measures could be taken to relieve the unsanitary overflows. The solution offered was diverting the flow of raw sewage from the private property through an EOP manhole (referred to herein as “XX EOP”) discharging directly into the awa, but only as a short-term fix. In minuted notes, Watercare engineers suggested the overflows could be the result of insufficient capacity of the Rutherford Line and this could be upgraded to reduce the overflows, with the action that the issue required more investigation. The timeframe given to complete the upgrade work was five years. The concerned resident was unhappy with the overflows being diverted into Te Wai o Pareira but agreed to this plan of work because it was presented as a temporary fix, and was the best and only solution immediately available.

Watercare minutes from the September 2019 meeting:

 

“Long term solution

- Local network upgrades: within the next five years Watercare will undertake network upgrades to further improve capacity. Whilst a solution is to be confirmed, one option is to build a new 300mm wastewater pipe which is currently a 175mm pipe (refer to attached map). The ultimate solution will eliminate wet weather overflows at [XX] EOP.”

 

Two years later, at the 17 February 2022 hui, we were informed that the XX EOP might not be resolved until the commissioning of Stage 4 or 5 of the Northern Interceptor in 2036. However, it was mentioned that the intention is to bring this date forward.

 

We have a number of EOPs and uncontrolled manholes discharging raw sewage from the Henderson Creek catchment into Te Wai o Pareira during heavy rain events. We don't find it satisfactory or acceptable for our community to live with this for another 14 years.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Northern Interceptor this is a major multi-stage plan of works to “reduce wastewater overflows in the environment and keep up with growth in central and north-west Auckland” due to be completed in 2040.  You may have seen the works beside the Greenhithe bridge, which are progressing Phase 1 and will be in service later this year.

 

We were provided with this from the Watercare minutes of the February 2022 meeting:

 

“(Watercare) will investigate whether downstream capacity upgrades will improve (reduce) the frequency and volume of overflows. A desktop assessment (using computer modelling) on the impacts of NI (Northern Interceptor) phase 1 on PS44 (a pump station) and XX EOP will be completed. An update will be provided on these in a future Rivercare & Watercare quarterly meeting.”


 

Rivercare Group have questioned the resource consents granted for the XX EOP (manhole); this an ongoing conversation that we will keep you updated on.

 

Conclusion: 

There are some possible solutions including the diversion of the pump station output to Rosedale and local network improvements that are to be investigated. If these options are undertaken, the expected completion time and end of raw sewage flowing into the awa at the undisclosed location is 2036. It is unclear if Watercare will carry out any interim works on the XX EOP.

 

We found the discussion around the undesirable discharge into Te Wai o Pareira, the lack of commitment to previously agreed-upon solutions frustrating, and the responses disappointing.

 

2. Inflow & Infiltration (I&I) Investigation Planned for Te Atatū Peninsula

We proposed the question: Why are we repeating this I&I exercise when Rivercare believes that the bulk of the sewage entering the Transmission Line and causing overflows at Te Atatū Peninsula comes from the Western Catchment via the siphon under Te Wai o Pareira? Are there I&I investigations planned for areas northwest of Te Atatū where most of the sewage flows from?

 

Watercare confirmed to us that: The bulk of the wastewater flow from Taipari Strand through to the Concourse is outside of Te Atatū Peninsula, but Te Atatū Peninsula adds to the overflow issues through stormwater entering the network. The primary cause of wet weather overflows is capacity at a nearby pump station.

 

We asked what benefits if any resulted from the I&I investigations conducted in Te Atatū Peninsula in 2017. Unfortunately, there was no benchmark taken prior to the work undertaken and therefore no benefits were able to be quantified. However, it is Watercare’s view that the elimination of the cross-connections in 14 homes in Te Atatū Peninsula would have ‘a significant benefit’. Also, Watercare informed us that the 2022 investigations will use modern technology eg video cameras will be used in problem areas identified with smoke testing as well as investigation in the stormwater network. This work commenced on 21 February 2022.

 

Conclusion: Te Atatū Peninsula I&I investigations are being repeated, but with more rigour. There are no firm plans for any I&I work in the Western Catchment which is frustrating as this is where the bulk of flow comes from.

3. Clean-ups following Pollution Events

We questioned the poor quality of clean-ups after raw sewage overflows on public reserve land and asked if stronger discipline and protocols could be introduced.

 

Watercare conceded that on a few occasions downstream clean-ups have been inadequate considering the natural receiving environment.

 

They assured us that overflow clean-up procedures have improved, and the clean-up review is more thorough and in line with Watercare's standards. Site-specific clean-up plans are in place for Te Atatū Peninsula to ensure efficient and thorough clean-ups.

 

Conclusion: Whilst not specifically stated, it appears that this issue is now closed to our satisfaction with the measures that Watercare outlined above.

 

4. Fault Reporting Difficulties

The Watercare system doesn’t cater for reporting faults on public reserves making it difficult to log an overflow or other pollution event to their faults team if it is on public reserve.

 

We have received a written response from Watercare informing us that no process or computer system changes are proposed to address this issue. Their reasoning is that the majority of problems are associated with residential properties. Rivercare Group understands that there are a lot of Watercare assets; manholes, pipes etc on public reserves and that changes to Watercare’s processes and systems are required.

 

Conclusion: We have requested a meeting with the senior manager responsible and are waiting on this to be arranged.

Update: We have since met with Watercare's Head of Customer Experience and we are pleased to inform you that due to our pursual of this matter, Watercare is developing an update to the faults reporting system that we hope will address this issue, making it easier to report faults on public land. Watercare have asked our group to be involved in the design process so we will report back to you.

2. Inflow & Infiltration Investigation Planned for Te Atatū Peninsula

We proposed the question: Why are we repeating this I&I exercise when Rivercare believes that the bulk of the sewage entering the Transmission Line and causing overflows at Te Atatū Peninsula comes from the Western Catchment via the siphon under Te Wai o Pareira. Are there I & I investigations planned for areas northwest of Te Atatū where most of the sewage flows from?

 

Watercare confirmed to us that: The bulk of the wastewater flow from Taipari Strand through to the Concourse is from outside of Te Atatū Peninsula, but Te Atatū Peninsula adds to the overflow issues through stormwater entering the network. The primary cause of wet weather overflows is capacity at a nearby pump station.

 

We asked what the measurable benefit was from the investigations into stormwater ingress into the wastewater network done here in Te Atatū in 2017. Unfortunately, there was no benchmark taken prior to the work being undertaken and therefore no benefits were able to be quantified. However, it is Watercare’s view that the elimination of the cross-connections in 14 homes in Te Atatū Peninsula would have ‘a significant benefit’. Also, the investigations being undertaken in 2022 are now using modern technology. This time, video cameras will be used in problem areas identified with smoke testing as well as investigation in the stormwater network. This work commenced on 21 February 2022.

 

Conclusion: There are no firm plans at this point for any I&I work in the Western Catchment which is frustrating when this is where the bulk of flow comes from. Te Atatū Peninsula I&I investigation is being repeated, but with more rigour.

3. Clean-ups following Pollution Events

We questioned the poor quality of clean-ups after raw sewage overflows on public reserve land and asked if stronger discipline and protocols could be introduced.

 

Watercare conceded that on a few occasions downstream clean-ups have been inadequate considering the natural receiving environment.

They assured us that overflow clean-up procedures have improved and more thorough checking is now being done that the cleaning is done to Watercare's standards and that site-specific clean-up plans are in place for Te Atatū Peninsula to ensure efficient and thorough clean-ups.

 

Conclusion: Whilst not specifically stated, it appears that this issue is now closed to our satisfaction with the measures that Watercare outlined above.

 

4. Fault Reporting Difficulties

The Watercare system doesn’t cater for reporting faults on public reserves making it difficult to log an overflow or other pollution event to their faults team if it is on public reserve.

We have received a written response from Watercare informing us that no process, or computer system changes are proposed to address this issue, as they say, that the majority of problems are associated with residential properties. Rivercare Group understands that there are a lot of Watercare assets; manholes, pipes etc on public reserves and that changes to Watercare’s processes and systems are required.

 

Conclusion: We have requested a meeting with the senior manager responsible and are waiting for this to be arranged.