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Wastewater visitors get up close to the dirty truth

Published: 6 May 2022

Last Updated: 8 May 2022


Fatbergs, rag monsters, sludge, slime, oil, grease, grime, guts, blood and embalming fluid are all ending up in Napier’s wastewater system. While they are down there, they’re causing mayhem by blocking drains, breaking pipes and clogging pumps.

From the wastewater network the gunk heads to the wastewater treatment plant where the biological trickling filter does its best to process the mess. By changing people’s mindset around what should go down the drain Napier Council’s Three Waters team is hoping to improve the quality of sewage entering the system, the treatment plant, and, eventually, Te Whanganui a Orotū (the Ahuriri Estuary) and ocean.

Debra Stewart, Napier’s director of infrastructure, says it is a positive step to now have over a hundred members of the public as wastewater champions after touring the treatment plant and learning about the processes undertaken there.

“It's a common misconception that sewage is just number 1s and number 2s, but actually the largest volumes come from other sources, especially business operations. It's those sources that can be improved by people changing their behaviours,” says Stewart.

“We are blowing out fatbergs every weekend from our pipes, mainly because of lack of knowledge,” she says. “Every single person can help by getting clued up on what goes down the drain.”

Many of the unmentionables found in the pipes are best left unsaid but they include detergents, inks, mud, metal, offal and fruit juice pulp, which can be corrosive.

“Food outlets, car yards, industrial areas where there’s tanneries, meat works, paint yards, there’s a lot they can do to clean up their act,” explains Stewart. “A lot of little actions can make a huge difference to the quality of what’s entering our waterways. Some places are taking responsibility and putting in processes in their own systems that break down this stuff and take it to the right places. Other places have a long way still to go.”

All 120 places on the Wastewater Treatment Plant tours were fully booked within four days of being announced. Tours are part of wider consultation on the Trade Waste and Wastewater Bylaw that closes on 25 May. Feedback can be given on the proposed bylaw via More tours are in the pipelines.

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