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Christchurch stink has residents taking matters into their own hands

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 May 2022, 8:50am
The fire-damaged Christchurch Wastewater Treatment Plant in Bromley. (Photo / Supplied)
The fire-damaged Christchurch Wastewater Treatment Plant in Bromley. (Photo / Supplied)

Christchurch stink has residents taking matters into their own hands

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 May 2022, 8:50am

RNZ

Bromley residents fed up with their homes smelling like burnt faeces are taking matters into their own hands.

They say Christchurch City Council is not doing enough to fix the horrific stench wafting out from the city's fire-damaged sewerage plant, so they have organised a community meeting to be held this week.

Bromley resident Alyssa Tomlinson said the assault on their nostrils was falling on Christchurch City Council's deaf ears.

"It's just gone from never really having headaches to having constant migraines and scratchy throats, coughs... just generally feeling unwell quite a lot of the time," she said.

The highest levels of hydrogen sulphide were recorded at five parts per million in air quality testing around the plant last week.

Niwa air quality expert Dr Guy Coulson said the workplace limit is 10 parts per million for an eight-hour shift.

"The problem there, of course, is that is based on the idea that's just for eight hours and that's based on normal, healthy people.

"Outside of the workplace you might find more susceptible people."

But there are not really any other guidelines.

Many residents were not aware the testing was taking place and said the council's communication had been terrible - so much so it has pushed Caleb Saunderson to help organise a public meeting in the Bromley Community Hall this Friday evening.

"The whole reason why I'm doing it is I'm a concerned community member who's sick of my kids not being able to play outside because of the smell and not being able to open my windows," he explained.

The meeting is public because while Bromley residents are worst affected, the stench can be smelt all over the city, he said.

Saunderson lives 500 metres from the plant and said the council had a history of not reacting quickly to problems.

"I think everybody's sort of feeling a little left in the dark about it. A lot of us don't believe the necessary measures to contain the smell and everything else has been taken in a timely manner."

Council's head of Three Waters Helen Beaumont said council meetings had not happened due to Covid-19 restrictions, but they had been communicating with residents.

"We've got a dedicated page on the council's website and we release stories every two to four weeks on that. We've also done a couple of flyer drops around the neighbourhoods close to the plant."

Local residents said that was not enough - Saunderson wanted more detailed and regular updates to prove work was progressing quickly.

Alyssa Tomlinson thought the actions needed to be more visible to the community.

"To see them actually there doing something about it, rather than just placating people [would be great]. And the people in charge should be on the ground too - not just sitting behind a desk giving people orders or ignoring emails," she said.

"They should be there, getting to know what's going on. Because if you're not there, you don't really know what's going on, do you?"

Beaumont had been at the plant as recently as last week, and admitted it had been tough on the nearby residents.

"We understand and I'm really sorry the odours from the plant are as bad as they are even though we're now several months away from the fire."

She said short term solutions to help the community were being put to councillors this week.

"We've got a couple of staff looking at what advice we can give. Some of it is similar to the advice given right after the fire about closing windows when the smell is at its worst to stop it getting inside, then opening the house up when the wind changes direction.

"We're also looking at some community support, so well-being support."

There was still no comment on whether rates reductions would be on the table.

Weekly testing at the wastewater plant will continue for the next four to six weeks and public health advice will be updated based on the results.

Now that Covid-19 measures have relaxed, the council is also looking to hold public and community board meetings and recording Q and A sessions.

- RNZ