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Friday, May 6, 2011

Thousands of toilets to flush again

Thousands of toilets to flush again

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 06/05/2011
 
About 860 earthquake-hit households in eastern Christchurch are free to flush their toilets after more than two months, with another 15,000 expected to follow within weeks.

The city council yesterday dropped leaflets at Waimairi Beach homes between Bower Ave, Aston Drive and Beach Rd, telling residents to stow away their chemical loos and start flushing their house toilets again.

Since the February quake, residents in about 40,000 homes have been unable to flush their toilets, or advised not to, instead making do with chemical toilets or streetside portaloos.

Council water and waste manager Mark Christison said other areas would have sewerage restored soon, with up to 15,000 households expected to be cleared to flush within four weeks.

He would not say which suburbs would be restored first, but more areas would be cleared from Monday.

All homes still using chemical toilets should have sewerage restored within six months, although some streets might require temporary solutions, such as septic tanks, he said.

It has been a long time between flushes for Bower Ave resident Selwyn Cassidy.

"It's a luxury that you don't realise," he said.

Cassidy has not been using his chemical toilet, relying instead on the portaloo not far from his front door since February. The chemical toilet would disappear into a cupboard ready for the next quake, he said.

Neighbour Dave Ward said flushing the toilet was welcome, but there were much bigger problems, pointing to the large cracks in his house.

"We've had half our ceiling fall in," he said.

Across the road, Ian Cochrane was indifferent to the news, having used his own toilet since the flush returned 12 days after the quake.

"I've been using it ever since. I'm not using one of those," he said, pointing to a portaloo down the road.

Christison said the sewerage restoration was possible only after contractors cleared sand and silt from the pipes, and this work would continue in the eastern suburbs for up to four months.

While sewerage would soon be restored to many homes, permanently fixing the network would take years rather than months.

About a quarter of Christchurch's sewage – about 40 millions litres a day – continued to go into the city's rivers, he said. This would not abate until about 10 kilometres of quake-damaged pressure mains were replaced, which was expected to take up to three months.

Christison said repair teams were making "steady progress" at the quake-damaged wastewater-treatment plant in Bromley.

"We're not there yet, but things are better than they were."

Oxygen levels in the plant's oxidation ponds had improved, decreasing the chances of untreated water turning them into stinking lakes, he said.

Christison said officials still needed "to get a feel for" the extent of damage at the plant, but full repairs were likely to take 12 to 18 months.

- The Press

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