Raw sewage has been flowing into stormwater drains from a Petone apartment block for up to a decade, causing a literal and metaphorical stink for business owners, the body corporate and the council.
Sewage pipes were connected to the stormwater system when an old cinema was converted into seven apartments on the corner of Jackson and Bay streets in 2003.
Fay Drysdale moved her party supply business, Build a Birthday, into the ground floor of the Grand Theatre complex in 2012 and, within months, had complained to Hutt City Council about the smell from a drain directly in front of her shop.
Initially the council told her the smell was backwash from the sea, but in December last year it carried out a "dye test", which confirmed sewage was flowing into the stormwater pipes, Drysdale said.
A pong permeated through half of her shop some days and puts shoppers off. "Sewage is going into the street and wafting into my shop. It's just off-putting. I wonder how many people come in, say ‘It smells', and leave."
A standoff developed between the council and apartment owners over who should pay to fix the problem, she said. "I'm the one getting the smells and can't get either party to move on it."
The Dominion Post understands a body corporate of three apartment owners had been quoted $21,000 by a plumber to lay the correct pipe under Bay St. It had already spent $5000 investigating the problem.
Hutt City Council inspected the drains during construction in early 2003, and found they had not been laid according to plans, environmental consents manager Helen Oram said.
An as-built drainage plan was later provided to the council by a registered drainlayer, showing the pipes complying with plans, she said. It was not known whether the cross-connection was made in 2003 or at a later date without the council's knowledge.
A 10-year period during which the council had liability for infrastructure problems expired in August 2013, so the owners needed to pick up the bill.
The council had issued an enforcement notice on March 21 this year, but the work had not been carried out, she said.
"Council have a strong desire to ensure this issue is remedied. As a gesture of goodwill, council has waived any consent fees for this work to be undertaken, and are flushing the affected drains on a regular basis."
Drysdale, however, said she had flagged the problem before the 10-year period expired.
Grand Theatre Apartment owners could consider a civil lawsuit against the original developers, but the council would not pursue a case, Oram said.
Property developers Kent Atkinson and Kevin Mathews could not be contacted.
- The Dominion Post
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