Many unsure about use of toilets
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
To flush or not to flush? That is the question.
More than 27,000 chemical toilets have been distributed in Christchurch's quake-stricken eastern suburbs but some residents say they do not know whether they are allowed to flush after confusing official advice.
Civil Defence's immediate post-quake message was that people could use their regular toilets once water was restored but last weekend it backtracked, asking anyone who was offered a chemical toilet to use it.
Other eastern residents have reported that despite not being able to flush their toilets, they were struggling to acquire a chemical toilet through Civil Defence.
David Close, of New Brighton, and a former Christchurch City councillor, said many people were confused about their obligation to use chemical toilets, leading to potential health risk as thousands of litres of waste were flushed into sewerage system that could not support it.
"It is a very vague sort of message," he said. "I would say 90 per cent of people around here are still flushing."
Close was away when chemical toilets were distributed to his neighbours. He had been using his functioning toilet until last weekend, when he received a notice saying he should be using a chemical toilet.
"It is all very confusing," he said.
Christchurch City Council water and waste unit manager Mark Christison said the message to residents had been "refined", because waste had started overflowing into people's properties.
"The sewerage system was gagging ...," Christison said.
The rule now was if you had been given a chemical toilet, or people in surrounding properties had received one, you should be using it, regardless of whether your regular toilet was flushing.
Some parts of the eastern suburbs could be restored to normal service within a few weeks but many people would be using chemical toilets for up to four months, perhaps longer if flooding during winter created additional complications, he said.
"There are no guarantees ... our system is just not robust."
He would not give any definite timetables for restoring sewerage to specific areas because the state of the system was still "evolving". As of yesterday, 27,500 chemical toilets had been distributed into 31 suburbs, with another 13,500 on thier way.
These toilets can be emptied into about 400 disposal tanks, which were stationed at street corners, with a further 50 on the way.
More than 2000 portable toilets remained on footpaths, mostly through the southern suburbs, but these would be phased out as service is restored.
People in other parts of the city can flush but are asked to do so "sparingly".
- The Press