Napier council discharged more than 10 million litres of sewage into the city’s waterways last month without a regional council consent to do so.
This was revealed at the regional authority’s corporate services committee when regional councillor Paul Bailey raised a report on the wastewater discharge, which was penned by NCC, as an urgent issue item.
According to the report [see attachment below] at around 9:00am on April 5 NCC determined there was insufficient transfer capacity to pump sewerage from the Latham Street WWPS through to the Wastewater Treatment Plant and insufficient capacity to discharge treated sewerage to the ocean outfall.
“The impact of this event was the potential for raw sewerage to discharge into the streets through surcharged manholes,” the report reads.
“The area of impact was around Wycliffe Street and Taradale Road.”
The report informed the regional council staff that the wastewater network main pump stations were controlled manually to the maximum capacity of the WWTP outfall.
As such the NCC’s city services director Lance Titter recommended to his chief executive Wayne Jack to “to make a controlled discharge to the stormwater network.”
The logic of the decision, the report explained, was the discharge of raw wastewater to the streets and private and-or public property through the surcharging of manholes would expose the public to raw wastewater and the raw wastewater would ultimately be removed through the stormwater network.
This discharge followed the heavy rainfall event from the tail end of Cyclone Debbie, which saw 121 milimetres of rain fall on Napier – something which the council report as a 1 in 5 year event.
“Raw wastewater was released at two points,” the report reads.
“From Greenmeadows WWPS [wastwater pump station] which discharged to a NCC open channel stormwater drain, across the road from 14 Spriggs Crescent, that connects to the Purimu drain and the Taradale WWPS, which was discharged to the County drain, at the back of 124 Taradale Road.”
Potential areas along Wycliffe Street of sewage discharge through surcharged manholes during the April weather event.
According to a table in the report the discharge lasted more than 18 hours releasing a total of 10,857 metres cubed of sewage.
Regional council chief executive James Palmer informed his councillors that his group manager of resource management, Iain Maxwell, had written to NCC putting the city’s authority on one month’s notice.
“To file resource consents for the discharges that are currently unconsented,” he said.
Regional councillor Neil Kirton labled the six page report “woefully inadequate.”
“There is no external or independent examination or involvement in it we should be all over it and I am appalled at the report,” he said.
“The infrastructure is clearly deficient we are in danger of the same Havelock North situation when you get the excuses passed on to us in this way.”
Kirton acknowledged that the issue was one that needed to be dealt with by both NCC and the regional council.
“Ours because we need to monitor it we need to know exactly what is going on we need to stop it,” he said.
“I am just really laying it out there that the compliance and consenting environment is high profile and needs urgent addressing by [regional council] staff.”
Turing to the regularity of such a rainfall event regional council chairman Rex Graham said he was concerned that Napier city’s reticulation system came under pressure at 121mm of rain.
“That is not unusual for Hawke’s Bay,” he said.
“We can get 120mm in two days three or four times a year so it must be more than that – that is not an extreme rainfall event.
“An extreme rainfall event is 80-100ml in three hours.”
Bailey echoed these comments saying this type of event was something that “happens over and over” if it happened every five years.
“That is something that should be manageable by the NCC and I am disappointed in the report because of that,” he said.
Regional councillor Tom Belford said this issue was one that had been going on for as long has he had been around the Bay.
“The infrastructure issue has always been the elephant in the room the wizard behind the curtain,” he said.
Belford said NCC had been “in denial” of this issue for a long time and that he suspected the reason it had not been bought to debate around the regional council table before was because NCC had not reported on it until now.
“They are great at building skate parks on Marine Parade but [they] can’t build adequate pumping facilities to get wastewater out of a sub-marine centre?” he questioned.
Despite two of the Napier Ward regional councillors – Bailey and Kirton – raising ire with the report, the third councillor for the city Alan Dick thought the report “reasonable”.
It was decided at the committee meeting that the Napier Ward councillors would meet with their Napier counterparts about the wastewater discharge.
News Collective approached NCC for a right of reply on the regional council’s comments and for further information on the issue, however its communications and marketing manager Fiona Fraser said her team was “tied up”.
For this reason she placed News Collective’s questions under the Local Government Information and Meetings Act, LGOIMA, which means the council has 20 business days to respond to the above questions.
However, the NCC report did note in its conclusion that several actions will be carried out by the city authority’s staff in light of this event [see below].