Wastewater education

What to and what not to flush

Over the last two years there has been an increase in community awareness and subsequent response to the number of wastewater overflows that have been occurring within the Waikato district.

A number of these overflows have occurred in Raglan and have resulted in the harbour being closed to both swimming and seafood collection.

But wastewater overflows aren’t limited to Raglan. Overflows happen across the district and in August 2016, Council received a report outlining initial responses to the level of overflows from the wastewater network and supported a continual improvement programme (CIP) approach to managing the overflow issues.

A review was carried out between September and November 2016 to determine what else could be done over the medium and long term to provide a sustainable improvement, recommendations from that review included

  • employing more specialist water and wastewater staff,
  • the purchase of standby generators,  
  • improved wastewater operational knowledge and control across the district,
  • a proactive network jetting and condition assessment programme,
  • and a district wide public education programme.

Council has a goal of reducing overflows as much as practicably possible but acknowledges that it is not possible to completely rule them out and need the community’s help.

Wastewater overflows are caused by:

  • Blockages caused by foreign objectives within the network or at pumping stations either in wet or dry weather
  • Inadequate capacity within the network, relative to the flow being transported – this is normally an issue in wet weather
  • Failure of key equipment (e.g. pumping stations) or power at key installations (e.g. pumping stations)

The effects or consequences of wastewater overflows are that:

  • They result in the pollution of waterway (streams, rivers and harbour)
  • Give rise to public health issues, if next to people or where they swim,
  • They cause a loss of utility for sanitary services for customers

Whilst the Council interventions will unboubtably lead to positive results, the community’s support and action will improve these results and for that reason the districts communities are being asked to do that bit through a public education programme.

As part of this public education work, material will be distributed to all public toilets in the district and all households will receive information letting them know what should and shouldn’t be put down the loo and kitchen sink. Council will have a presence at public events such as market days where we will share the message. Accommodation providers, real estate agents and plumbers will have access to information to circulate to their customers.

The wastewater education programme will then look to be embedded in schools around the district.

What we know so far

We know that people are putting non-flushable items such as rags, wet wipes, nappies and undies down the loo and fats, oil and grease down the kitchen sink. This in turn blocks the wastewater system and is the main cause of wastewater overflows (81 per cent in 2014-16) in our district. The remainder of overflows are due to network issues.

So we’re undertaking, among other things, a district-wide public education programme to alert the district to this problem.

Blocking materials

We find all sorts of blocking materials in our wastewater network. Some examples include:

  • Baby wipes
  • Band aids
  • Cigarette butts
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Clothes
  • Condoms
  • Cotton buds
  • Cotton wool
  • Dental floss
  • Face masks
  • Facial wipes
  • Bottom wipes
  • Fat, oil, grease
  • Food
  • Fruit labels
  • Goldfish
  • Hair
  • Kitty litter
  • Nappies
  • Nappy liners
  • Rags
  • Sanitary pads
  • Socks
  • Tampon applicators
  • Tampons
  • Tissues
  • Toilet roll tubes
  • Wet wipes

News, useful resources, information and tips


Fatbergs in Waikato district pipes too

20 September 2017
blockage - website

Its size has sent shockwaves around the world and while the Waikato district can’t claim anything quite as large, fatbergs have also been plaguing our pipes for years.

International media coverage of a 250-metre long, 130-tonne ‘fatberg’ blocking a London sewer pipe went viral on social media last week, but General Manager Service Delivery Tim Harty says pipes are often blocked by fatbergs across the Waikato district too.

“With the huge fatberg in the news last week it’s timely to remind our residents that in 2016/17, 81 per cent of wastewater overflows across the district were caused by things like wipes, sanitary hygiene products such has pads and tampons, fats, oils and grease, cotton buds, nappies and rags.

“Waikato district residents have told us the number of wastewater overflows that have occurred in recent times is unacceptable. In response to this Council is undertaking a range of work, including a district-wide public education programme which is aimed to let people know what can and can’t be put down the loo and kitchen sink,” Mr Harty says.

The message we need to get across to our residents is easy - pee, poo and (toilet) paper, or the three P’s, are the only things that should go down the loo. Everyone also needs to think while at the sink, Mr Harty says.

ENDS

Note: A ‘fatberg’ is a word used to describe a build-up of hard fats and oils which bind with other problem items in the wastewater system like wet wipes, sanitary pads and nappies and then create a solid mass. This build-up can block the pipe system which then causes overflows and damage to pumping equipment. Fats, oils and grease should be left to cool and disposed of, not tipped down the kitchen sink hot to then cool in the pipes.