Seeking answers to water quality, Council blows smoke up its pipes
Smoke in the water!
The summer of 2017 saw the launch of Safeswim, an online website with real-time water quality information, available to the public for the first time. Aucklanders were able to find out about their favourite swimming spots before heading to them to cool off.
During that summer, Takapuna beach came under fire when a weather event exposed the beach as having suspect water quality. The beach was considered high risk for swimming for several days in early 2018.
Since then, joint investigations have been undertaken by Auckland Council and Watercare in the proximity to the beach to understand what is impacting water quality.
A variety of diagnostic procedures have been employed to identify faults; manhole inspections, CCTV of some stormwater and wastewater pipes, dye testing, smoke testing and private property checks.
Watch below as Anin Nama, Watercare's Improvement Programmes Manager explains how smoke testing works:
Over 490 properties were inspected; 39 private faults and 19 minor public faults were uncovered that either increase the risk of wastewater overflows or result in contaminants discharging into the network.
Other problems repeatedly found were low and damaged wastewater gully traps, tree root damage, private stormwater downpipes plumbed incorrectly, discharge of chemicals into drains and grease traps not maintained causing overflows.
“Water quality is a massive issue, both for our community and for the environment,” says North Shore ward Councillor Richard Hills.
“We’ve secured over $7 billion in funding for water quality projects in Auckland across the next decade with $1 billion of that on the Shore, condensing thirty years’ worth of work into just ten years. It’s the biggest spend on water infrastructure Auckland’s ever seen.
“There have been several large infrastructure projects on the North Shore in recent years, including the $30m Fred Thomas Drive pump station, to tackle the biggest issues. What we are dealing with now is a large number of smaller scale issues that together add up to a large issue at Takapuna Beach.
"It was great to visit the site with the team and see the hard work they are doing to get Takapuna Beach where it needs to be.”
Council teams have followed up with business and property owners and some improvements have been made, some of the issues resolved.
But there is still much to be done. Takapuna Beach north is frequently a high-risk spot and on-going investigations are continuing as to the source of pollution causing water quality issues on this end of the beach.
But the fix is not easy and will take some time and money. But if everyone plays their part the water quality will improve more quickly on Takapuna Beach.
For example, residents can help by reporting pollution to the council pollution line and keep pressure off pipes by considering what’s put down toilets and drains.