UFB rollout hits glitch with sewers

23:00, Feb 19 2013

The laying of ultrafast broadband cables in Palmerston North has resulted in at least two sewage overflows on to private properties.

The city council scored itself a red traffic light in reviewing its performance for the December quarter, for failing to meet the goal of allowing no overflows from the wastewater system.

Affected property owner Stephen Bowe said he received complaints from tenants at the corner of Guy Ave and Richmond Ave complaining about the smell.

Several other properties were also affected.

It took several attempts to identify the problem before plumber Vince Basile was called in to locate the break.

"The end result was excellent," Mr Bowe said. "They all sorted it out among themselves, and I was not out of pocket."


City council waste and water services manager Rob Green said where UFB contractors were to blame for sewer breaks and blockages, the council expected them to pay to put things right.

But if contractors used plans from the council, and still ran into pipes that were not exactly where they were shown on the plans, or not at the depth that was indicated, the council would negotiate cost-sharing.

"The problem is that occasionally the severed pipe does not show up for days."

The UFB rollout continues in Palmerston North into next year, as part of a nationwide project to reach close to 1 million properties by the end of 2019.

Mr Green said roots from street trees were also becoming a significant problem, causing sewer blockages.

"I am unsure of the number of these incidents, but they are becoming more common as pipes get older and trees become larger."

Mr Basile said the combination of street trees and ageing pipes caused problems throughout New Zealand.

City councillors have asked for a report on the annual cost of repairing pipes and footpaths damaged by tree roots.

And in a separate incident, there has also been a sewage overflow at Longburn.

Mr Green said the overflow happened just after the telemetry system inherited from Manawatu District as part of last year's boundary change was altered to be compatible with the city council's system.

"This would enable us to remotely monitor the pump stations and be alerted to any high-level alarms.

"Unfortunately, there was a software glitch in the new system which meant that a high-level alarm was not picked up in time to prevent the overflow."

Manawatu Standard