Water tower, control room 'deadly'

NICOLA FALLOW
Last updated 05:00 31/08/2012

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Six Invercargill City Council staff have been relocated from the control room building next to the water tower after an engineering report showed both structures could be deadly in an earthquake.

However, council water services manager Alister Murray said commercial carriers would still be allowed to fill their tankers at the water tower site.

The Beca Engineering Consultancy report found the Doon St control room building, north of the water tower and behind the Gala St reservoirs, was 15 per cent compliant with the current national building standard.

That means it is about 25 or more times likely to fail in an earthquake than a fully compliant building. Buildings less than 33 per cent compliant are deemed earthquake-prone.

So though the integrity of the structure had not changed for a long time, more was now known, which made that an issue of risk management, Mr Murray said. As council staff worked in the water works control room continuously that posed an unacceptable risk to their lives and welfare.

The water tower, closed to the public since February, was found to be 20 per cent compliant with the standard, meaning it is about 10 to 25 times more likely to fail in an earthquake.

However, although carriers were busy because of the dry weather, their visits were normally occasional and rain was expected to reduce their presence.

The six-member control room team was told in July of the assessment outcomes and relocation decision but were not physically moved to the ground floor of the Civic Administration Building in Esk Street until last week. That was because work was needed to reconfigure radio communications and rewrite the control system software.

Beca had now been asked to provide a detailed proposal of how the buildings might be strengthened to reduce the risk of failure to an acceptable level but it was not known yet when that would be received.

Meanwhile, at the council's finance and policy committee meeting on Tuesday a carry-forward budget of $50,000 was approved to fund the unplanned control room relocation, with $300,000 towards ongoing engineering work.

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- The Southland Times

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