Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Recovery team working to protect beach following ‘black flag’

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The temporary wastewater bypass being used while Watercare carries out repair work on the wastewater main at Howick Beach. Photo supplied

Infrastructure problems leading to the closure of Howick Beach have seen Watercare call in its specialist flood recovery team in the wake of ‘black flag’ incidents.

When a black flag warning is in place at a beach it means people should not swim there due to very high risk of illness.

Watercare says a major leak from a wastewater pipe in mid-January was quickly repaired, but the black flag was extended when slips caused more damage.

The organisation says land movement saw crews make more repairs on February 1.

“Now the recovery team will work on long-term solutions involving moving the pipeline inland.

“[The repairs] saw overflow warning signs placed in the beach car park and staff flushing the waterway to lower ammonia levels in it and at the beach outlet.”

Howick Local Board chairperson Damian Light says he welcomes the move.

The original incident was due to a break in an exposed section of wastewater pipe behind a Selwyn Road home, he says.

“Watercare says the floods in January last year caused banks around the stream to loosen.

“Movement since then exposed the pipe in places and covered it in others, adding pressure that’s seen it fail in several places.

“Watercare hasn’t been able to save the pipe, but its specialist team will fix the issue.”

Light says when beaches are not safe the Safeswim website continues to be the main channel to communicate information to residents, with that information also shared on Facebook.

“Watercare has kept board members and ward councillors informed throughout, providing updates on the leaks, repairs, and other relevant information.

“We do not have direct control over the assets, but the public has been clear more action should be taken to prevent issues, something reflected in the Howick Local Board Plan, which includes advocating for improvements on local stormwater and wastewater infrastructure to minimise overflows, and increased monitoring for illegal discharges.”

As of February 12, the black flag warning at Howick Beach had been lifted.

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