Work finally underway to clear smelly, damaged Christchurch wastewater plant, residents wonder why it's taken so long

Seven months after a fire, the massive job of removing rotting organic matter from Christchurch's damaged wastewater treatment plant is underway. 

East Christchurch residents who have been struggling with the putrid stench for the last seven months wonder why it's taken so long. 

So far an estimated 700 cubic metres of matter has been removed. There are about 26,000 cubic metres in total - that's the equivalent of 10 Olympic swimming pools. 

"They've dropped a small digger inside the trickling filter so that they can excavate the trickling filter and scoop that out," head of Three Waters Helen Beaumont said. 

They are then chipped, compacted and put in sealed containers before being taken to Kate Valley Landfill. 

That's one source of the offensive odour being dealt with, but the oxidation ponds are yet to be tackled.

"In May, they started to deteriorate and they will continue to deteriorate over the winter."

It will be weeks before the smell disappears. 

It's hard to describe how bad it smells. Think of the worst smell you've smelt, you can't get away from it, you can even almost taste it. It makes you feel queasy, and it comes in waves of intensity. 

Some say it's earthy, others say it smells like chemicals, and what's not in debate is that it needs to stop. 

"We want air quality, we want good air. We want it to feel like home again," Bromley resident Vickie White said. 

More than half of the eligible residents have accepted the $200 compensation, but the community's still waiting for a health register, something the council agreed to have set up a month ago. 

"I hope it's not going to be another seven months before we get a health register, because we need it now," White said.