Support package for wastewater plant stench must help 'everyone that's affected'

Christchurch city councillors will vote next week on a financial support package for residents directly affected by the stench emanating from the fire-damaged wastewater treatment plant in Bromley.

A briefing was provided by city council staff on Tuesday following urgent discussions with partner agencies on what the council could provide to the affected community - and how quickly it can be done.

It comes after angry residents held a packed public meeting on Friday night to demand action over the awful stench they have had to put up with since the wastewater treatment plant caught fire last year.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel apologised profusely to residents at the Bromley Community Hall.

She told John MacDonald on NewstalkZB the council "completely screwed up".

The stench has cast a pall over the city depending on which way the wind blew, and has been described as "putrid" and "sickening".

Dalziel admitted there were days when the pong was "utterly overpowering". Some residents said they could not sleep or open their windows.

Dalziel said residents living near the plant were bearing the brunt of the stench.

"If you can smell it in Ilam, you can imagine what it is like in Bromley," she said.

"They have told us their power bills have gone up because they are using dehumidifiers and fans all the time because they cannot leave their windows open," said Dalziel.

Tracey Mcdonald, who lives near the back of the plant with her partner and two children, told RNZ she's had constant headaches for months and is dealing with a sore throat and runny nose from the stench.

"It's starting to get really depressing living here, I feel like we've got a real raw end of the deal.

"You hang your washing outside ... we're using the dryer a lot more because the smell just gets into any little bit of material."

Mcdonald plans to buy an air purifier to help with the smell, and said at the very least the council should pay for power for residents.

"Power's not the cheapest in the middle of winter, so I would say $50 to $100 a month."

The wastewater treatment plant at Bromley. Photo: Supplied
The wastewater treatment plant at Bromley. Photo: Supplied

Paul Durie, who lives about 2km from the plant in South New Brighton, is worried the council won't front up with support for anyone beyond Bromley.

"They used very deliberate wording when they said 'immediate vicinity,' and that doesn't really cast that wide of a net in terms of the support that they're offering," he told RNZ.

"They'll draw a circle around it and say 'this is what we'll help.'"

Durie said all of the eastern suburbs are affected by the smell, and deserve compensation.

"I'd hope that they would spread it to everyone that's affected. All of us are putting up with this."

At Friday's meeting, councillors suggested laundry vouchers, rates reductions and paid-for trips out of town as some of the potential support options.

Dalziel agreed given the exceptional circumstances and the extra costs residents have shouldered. "It is appropriate that they should receive some financial assistance from the council."

"Councillors have indicated that they want to make support available to households in the immediate vicinity of the plant.

"We want to make that support available as quickly as possible. We also want it to be easy for residents to access the support they need. This is why we are working in partnership with existing community and government agencies,'' Dalziel said.

A demolition team has moved equipment on site and will begin the task of scooping out the rotting material inside the treatment plant next month.

An update on the situation will be provided at next Thursday's Finance and Performance Committee meeting when councillors are set to vote on a funding and support package.

A council spokesperson said Southern Demolition and Salvage Ltd began moving equipment onto the wastewater treatment plant site last week so they can get the complex task of removing the rotting material inside the trickling filters under way. The rotting material has been deemed to be partially responsible for the stench.

"It is going to take three weeks to get the removal operation completely set-up. Southern Demolition has to build a ramp to get heavy machinery to the top of the three-storey high concrete trickling filters so they can then reach in and begin scooping out the material.

"Southern Demolition will have crews working six days a week, 12-hours a day to get the material inside the trickling filters removed as soon as possible. They are targeting to have the job completed within four months, which means that by early September there should be no stench coming from the trickling filters.

"There may still be some smells from the oxidation ponds because the wastewater discharged into them is not treated as well as it was before the fire destroyed the trickling filters.Recent modifications to the wastewater treatment process are improving the quality of the effluent and aerators installed in the oxidation ponds are helping to minimise the smell. The smells from the ponds should gradually reduce over the next few months."

-RNZ, NZ Herald and Star News


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