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


Overflows across the Waikato district tracking downwards

25 September 2018

Wastewater overflows are tracking downwards across the Waikato district, but there is still more work to be done.

2014-16 data showed that 81% of overflows were caused by blockages. This has increased to 90% of overflows district-wide in 2018. This may seem like Council is going backwards, a percentage increase in blockages resulting in overflows shows that the network itself is becoming more resilient. This is as a result of investment in the telemetry system that identifies and responds to alarms quicker, asset grade assessments which prioritise critical areas for replacement or upgrade and large scale cleaning of the network. As we know, blockages are largely due to objects entering the wastewater system which are not meant to be there.

Council’s work in this space stems from its Continuous Improvement Programme which was established in 2016 after a number of overflows in Raglan caused the Whaingaroa Harbour to be closed several times. The programme looks to deliver on a number of tasks including: 

  • 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.

Two years into the programme Council is already seeing results. In 2017, the district had 171 overflows. For 2018 to date there have been 73 overflows compared to 113 at the same time last year. In Raglan, there have been 13 overflows so far this year compared to 34 for 2017. These 13 overflows have been minor and have not seen any wastewater discharged into water bodies. This means the harbour has stayed open.

Wastewater overflows are caused by:

  • foreign objectives within the network or at pumping stations
  • 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 pump stations

The effects or consequences of wastewater overflows include:

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

Waikato District Council Waters Manager Karl Pavlovich says while Council interventions will undoubtedly lead to positive results, the community’s support and action will improve these results.

“For that reason, the district’s communities are being asked to do their bit through a public education programme.

“As part of this public education work, material will soon 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,” he says.

Council aims to do all it can to reduce overflows, but is realistic in knowing that achieving zero overflows is not possible. “Council and the community working together is the only way we can reduce the impacts of overflows on the environment,” Mr Pavlovich says.

ENDS

For more information please contact:
Teresa Hancock
Communications Advisor
Waikato District Council
027 706 5776
communications@waidc.govt.nz