Sewage pours into backyards
Frustrated homeowner Joss Campbell has grown sick and tired of periodically finding poo on his Auckland property over last 20 years.
Raw sewage frequently bursts through manholes and gushes out of stormwater pipes into his garden and the Whau stream that runs through his backyard in the suburb of Avondale.
"I hear it cascading into the creek," he says. Last week it was pouring for three hours.
"It sounds like a waterfall and there is an aroma to it - not something you want to smell."
Neighbour Sharad Patel is equally sickened by the problem and says sewage also overflows from a manhole in his backyard every few months.
"Originally the manhole was under the house, then they moved it to the garden and it got worse," Patel says.
"It's terrible really and not something you want in your backyard. Our neighbour has two kids and we have an 8-year-old.
"We stop using the garden for at least a week afterwards."
Patel, who has lived on the property for six years, says he had to take leave from work to sort out the latest overflow just last week.
The area is one of many across Auckland where work is needed to upgrade aging systems that struggle to cope with population growth.
The council has signalled plans to address the problem region-wide over the next decade, along with similar stormwater overflow issues.
Part of its strategy includes construction of a $950 million wastewater pipeline between 2016 and 2030 which is expected to improve wastewater services in the western and central suburbs.
Watercare spokesman John Redwood says the organisation is aware of the Avondale situation in Miranda St.
He says the area's wastewater system hasn't had the capacity to deal with the volume from private stormwater systems and large quantities of cooking fat are blocking the pipes.
"Work is under way to prepare for a network upgrade which will increase capacity.
"In the meantime, we are regularly cleaning and flushing the wastewater pipes to ensure optimum performance.
"Our Trade Waste team is also looking into the quantity of fat being dumped into the wastewater system."
Contact with raw sewage can be hazardous because of bacteria and should be avoided, Redwood says.
"We will attend any wastewater overflow within one hour of it being reported to us, carry out a full cleanup of the overflow and disinfect the surrounding area."
The polluted creek is a tributary of the Whau River - a major Auckland waterway that flushes out into the upper Waitemata Harbour
Whau River Catchment Trust chairman Gilbert Brakey has worked to keep the river healthy for more than a decade but says sewage contamination is not uncommon.
"A lot of people can't see the problem and they're swimming in the water.
"How do we know if we are working in contaminated water and to what extent is it polluted?
"It's not acceptable and more needs to be done to prevent it."