AM hosts baffled by Watercare statement about sewage flow into Waitematā Harbour

  • 16/11/2023

AM hosts have been left confused by a statement from Watercare explaining whether Auckland's beaches are safe to swim in or not.   

It comes after large parts of the Waitematā Harbour were off limits for recreational activities after a main sewer line collapsed on September 28, creating a massive sinkhole. This resulted in millions of litres of sewage overflowing and pouring into the harbour.  

AM previously talked to marine ecologist Professor Simon Thrush who recommended "giving it a week" after the overflow stops before people go swimming again. 

So AM asked Watercare for a statement about when the sewage stopped going into the harbour.  

"The high-volume dry-weather overflows stopped on October 20. In the few days that followed though, there were short-duration, lower-volume overflows when wastewater flows peaked," Watercare said in a statement.   

"Our team addressed this by partially opening the stoplog (the steel fabricated door inside the Orakei main sewer by the sinkhole site), which allows some wastewater to flow through the damaged section of pipe. This removed the risk of dry-weather overflows, and there haven’t been any since October 26."  

But the statement left Bridge confused when he read it out on air on Thursday morning, saying "First of all, let's figure out what language they're speaking".   

Bridge and fellow AM host Melissa Chan-Green attempted to decipher the jargon-heavy statement.   

"I'm guessing there have been some low-volume excretions and there have been some high-volume wet weather excretions since October 20, which is what they're telling us without telling us," Bridge said.  

Chan-Green added, "so it means in perfect conditions, there hasn't been any sewage flows in but in wet weather conditions there may have been and actually there may have been a wee bit of a trickle still on other days".   

"How much did they pay the PR person to write this? That's what I want to know, and does it give you confidence in them saying 'go swimming again'? No," Bridge questioned.   

Chan-Green defended Watercare, saying they might not be able to properly answer the question.   

"Well, what I think it says is even before this leak, there is always some kind of trickle going in, so they can't actually answer the question straight-out when did sewage stop flowing into the Waitematā Harbour because it always did and never stopped," Chan-Green said.   

Watch the full moment above. 

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