Water quality: Sewage in stormwater overflows
Information session Monday 19 June 2017
Auckland Council recently distributed a flyer informing residents of two public meetings to explain details and to answer questions on its plan to upgrade the old and deteriorating sewerage system in St Mary’s Bay. The first of these was yesterday, the second is next Monday. This is a big issue for all of us in St Mary’s Bay. We encourage all members who were not at that meeting to attend the second meeting on June 19 so that you can understand what this means for you, and to understand how it fits into water quality issues generally in Auckland.
On the surface the proposed upgrade seems like a fine idea, and there is no doubt that the existing system can no longer handle current loads, especially in heavy rain. As we explained in our March newsletter, in these conditions sewage and other wastewater mix with stormwater in the old combined pipe system, and when the flow exceeds the pipe capacity, the polluted water overflows at St Mary’s Bay beach, Westhaven , Masefiled beach and other local beaches.
The St Mary’s Bay Association has been expressing its concern about these overflows for several years. For the past few months it has been discussing the problem with various arms of Auckland Council who have formed a taskforce charged with addressing water quality, both in our local area and Auckland-wide.
You may appreciate from several media articles this year, that St Mary’s Bay is but one of several areas in the central Auckland isthmus that has this continuing problem. The SMBA, in collaboration with the Herne Bay Residents Association, has raised these concerns with other affected communities. This has resulted in the formation of the Stop Auckland Sewage Overflows Coalition (SASOC), a group made up of communities that fringe the inner Waitemata Harbour or are located in inland parts of the Auckland isthmus. Dirk Hudig (Herne Bay Residents Association) and myself are co-convenors.
The discussions with Auckland Council leave the SMBA concerned that the proposal to improve water quality at St Mary’s Bay beach, Westhaven and Masefield beach (at the end of Curran St), does not go far enough. SMBA’s main concerns are:
• The proposal acknowledges that overflows of the polluted water will still occur (but justifies them on the basis that they will be lessened and moved out of St Mary’s Bay/Westhaven and away from Masefield beach).
• The proposal is said to be designed to integrate into long-term network improvement (that will further reduce overflows) but our understanding is that the long-term plans currently favoured do not include replacement of the combined pipe network in its entirety (hence the overflows will still contain sewage).
• No detail has been given of the level of rainfall that will cause the new system to overflow, or the likely frequency of that occurring.
In summary, the proposed new diversion and storage pipeline reduces but will not “resolve the issues of overflows to both of [St Mary’s Bay and Masefield beach]”: it can be viewed as transferring the overflow problem to other local beaches (the Masefield outfall cannot be guaranteed to keep it away from the beaches). The old combined sewage/stormwater pipes (that are the root cause of the problem) are left in place. We believe that this band-aid approach is not good enough.
We urge all members to attend the next information meeting, arranged by the Auckland Council’s St Mary’s Bay Project Team. You will be able to talk directly with the project manager, project engineers and others involved in the planning and design.
This is your opportunity to ask questions about the effectiveness of the project in terms of eliminating bacteria and other pollutants in St Mary’s Bay, and how it may affect your use of Westhaven and our local beaches.
Next meeting details:
Monday, June 19, 4pm-7pm (drop in at any time that suits you)
Level 2, NZ Marine Building, St Mary’s Bay, Westhaven
(This building is adjacent to St Mary’s Bay beach, off Westhaven Drive)
• To read the Auckland Council flyer publicising this project, click here:
• The Stop Auckland Sewage Overflows Coalition (SASOC) has just sent a report to members which will be posted on our website
The SASOC report details the history of the overflow problems, the overseas experience, the legal position on overflows, limitations of the Central Interceptor project, shared responsibility for the problem, planning, the CANOPy project and current views on tackling the problem.
As you will see from this comprehensive report Auckland Council faces significant issues in addressing this highly complex and expensive problem. However, it seems unanswerable that the problem has gone on too long – and that we should all be asking for a comprehensive plan to be put in place now for a solution that works for the central Auckland isthmus.
We urge you to drop into the 19 June meeting to get a better understanding of the proposal, and to ask any questions which may concern you.
For further information, please contact:
SMBA chair, David Abbott firstname.lastname@example.org
SMBA secretary, Wendy Moffett email@example.com
• Neighbours keen to join the SMBA?
• If you have neighbours who would like to join the St Mary’s Bay Association, they can simply click on https://www.stmarysbayassociation.nz/membership/
1. Complete the online form, then…
2. Transfer the membership fee to the SMBA bank account.
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Our mailing address is:
Saint Mary’s Bay Association Inc.
PO Box 47-376
Chairman: David Abbott firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary: Wendy Moffett email@example.com
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