Sewerage back on agenda

Blanket Bay resident Gerry Boyle stands beside a ditch where septic tank run-off has accumulated...
Blanket Bay resident Gerry Boyle stands beside a ditch where septic tank run-off has accumulated before draining into Otago Harbour in the past. Photo by Craig Baxter.
After putting up with septic tank run-off for years, residents of a West Harbour hamlet are pleased sewerage services in the area may finally be improved.

Blanket Bay residents whose houses use septic tanks to dispose of effluent say inundated systems can cause seepage, which runs into Otago Harbour.

For several years, some residents have hand-wrung laundry or used laundromats in Dunedin to keep "grey water" from putting added pressure on tanks, even though they are cleaned regularly.

Retired Blanket Bay Rd resident Gerry Boyle was pleased a group of residents received a good response when they presented a letter and petition to the Chalmers Community Board on Wednesday.

Mr Boyle first raised the issue of septic tank run-off with a health inspector when the area was part of the Waikouaiti County Council, 37 years ago.

In the late 1990s, he asked the Dunedin City Council if sewerage could be added to proposed mains, which were to run beside railway lines to Dunedin, removing the need for septic tanks. The pipes were instead diverted to run within 20m of houses along SH88.

"I thought, what's the excuse this time? The pipe went right past the front gate but [in 2001] council told us sewage couldn't be pumped into a rising main. We thought it was a pity another opportunity had been missed."

Mr Boyle has long since become resigned to the lack of progress. Run-off dispersed from a drainage ditch near his home after heavy winter rain and the smell was often minimal.

"It's not a major, but it's the 21st century and surely the council can do a bit better for the people here."

Council water and waste services manager John Mackie said plans to install a reticulated system at Allanton could provide a "pathway" for Blanket Bay.

"There are several harbour and outlying communities facing similar problems, but these are not insurmountable once policy is established."

Mr Mackie said Blanket Bay sewerage issues might not have been addressed by the council in the past due to a "absence of policy, it being outside a reticulated zone, technical issues or [a lack of] policy on funding."

Blanket Bay Rd resident Tom Moore said the problem "came to a head" for him three weeks ago when neighbours said they were applying for resource consent to add a sleep-out, and installing a septic tank at a cost of about $20,000.

"The next day, I heard a subdivision of five parcels in the area could add another five tanks. It just seems like a lot of irrational expense."

In recent correspondence with the council, Mr Moore questioned the area's rural 5 zoning.

"There seems to be hidden agenda with the DCC because the explanations don't make sense. According to the R5 zoning, every house is on 1000 square metres, so it was specifically zoned to have septic tanks. But it's a circular argument. Many of the sections are smaller than what they should be, and smaller than R5 at sea level, where drainage is poor. Our expectation would be it gets fixed in 12 months before more older tanks need replacement, or more sections go in."

Community board member Trevor Johnson said the board had been raising Blanket Bay run-off issues with the council for several years.

"On many occasions over the years, numerous people from numerous authorities all looked at it in one form or another, and nothing was done.

It may be [the city] council and the regional council have put in the 'too hard basket'."


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