April 3, 2011

Toilet humour in Quakechurch

As we head for six weeks post quake, life assumes a new normal in "Quakechurch".  One of the issues is to do with the sewerage systems. Did you know sewage is what is in the pipes and sewerage is the transport system.... I digress.. much of the city, or at least eastern sides, are coping with problems with toilets. Most, not all, homes have power... but large chunks of this side of the city have no, or slow sewerage.  Apparently, ours is "slow" - so we can technically flush, but ...

The latest figures show that six per cent, or 96 kilometres, of Christchurch's sewerage mains were not working, with a further 27 per cent, or 474km, working only slowly.
The slow-moving flow of effluent in the pipes was presenting the biggest headache for council, and also potentially health authorities, because they were still leaking millions of litres into backyards, rivers and the sea, he said. 
A quarter of Christchurch's sewage, about 40 million litres a day, was still leaking out of broken pipes. While this was a massive improvement from 60 million litres a day just two weeks ago, it would still be months rather than weeks before rivers and beaches were found to be safe. 
All Christchurch residents are urged to use water and toilets sparingly, as sewerage systems are broken and not able to cope with large volumes of wastewater. If you have been given a chemical toilet, keep using it. If there is a portable toilet in your street or on a nearby street, please use it to help ease pressure on the overall network. 

Chemical toilet distribution area.
Hmm - it appears from this map that we are in the zone for a chemical toilet.... the top end "Westhaven", but so far no sign of one. There is a portaloo about 200 m away in either direction - nope, not heading there either. We flush... sparingly... mellow yellow and all that. If we becomes a household with one of the proposed 40,000 chemical toilets, I already know where the special emptying tank is... I noticed last night that someone has kindly taped alcohol hand sanitiser to it. It is a long walk from us - so a quick car trip is likely to be needed each day. 

A map of emptying tanks for the chemical toilets...
The blue ponds to the right are the oxidation ponds...

However, the problem is not just for the easterners... so I hope the rest of the city get flush conscious too.

Sewerage system on brink of failure
Christchurch's sewerage system is on the verge of collapse, threatening to blanket the city in an "almighty stink" till Christmas. 
Christchurch City Council water and waste operations maintenance manager Mike Bourke said staff were working furiously to fix the quake-hit sewerage system, but it remained on a "knife-edge".
He called on Christchurch residents to work harder to conserve water or risk overloading the sewage ponds, leading to a city-wide stench.
"If we overload the ponds it will create an almighty stink. It won't just affect the eastern suburbs, you'll smell it in Hornby."
The choke point was the quake-crippled Bromley wastewater treatment plant, which was processing sewage at only 30 per cent of its normal level.
That had forced the council to release more untreated water into the 230 hectares of oxidation ponds and there was a 50 per cent chance that the oxygen level would drop below functional levels, turning the placid lakes into a vast cesspit.

Many have already compared life here to "The Blitz". If we start carrying gas masks, the picture will be complete.

The other problem is drinking water. The current advice is that we should keep boiling or treating all water before drinking, brushing teeth or using in food preparation until further advised. Technically, not hard at all. We still boil water, and we buy bottled water.. and we don't eat salad or drink coffee from places that don't pre boil their water, and so far none of us have been ill. I still feel that I have spent the last six weeks working hard to avoid constantly feeling dehydrated and I know that many people are coping with constipation, cystitis and headaches, probably all due to a reduced water intake. Somehow, keeping up with the needs of four people and the pets, tepid boiled water is often the only thing I can find to drink... particularly in the middle of the night. Hate it, but I force it down.

On Friday I spent the day at a meeting in Wellington. We had booked a single storey office near the Beehive. Three of us there flew up from Christchurch; we all eyed the high rises, the old heritage buildings, road flyovers, bridges and immense acres of glass frontages with new eyes and wished we were home. We all had things like torches, cell phones, solar phone chargers with us. Someone asked us what we would do differently - we all said "carry and store more water". We all felt bad that we had none with us up there .... and never mind the Civil Defence advice on planning on coping for three days alone. Plan for a week! I would also always wear shoes you can walk in.. can be a long walk home.

I find it hard to grieve properly because I am still feeling detached from the reality of what has happened, but I know I am jumpy, irritable and stressed. Sometimes I get close enough to see damage for myself, but most of it is from pictures and tv footage, and nothing like the reality of being in there, feeling the changes. Out of courtesy to residents, we don't drive into the worst hit areas. Out of safety concerns, we are still not in the central city. My work area is not the same - I have no office or proper place to do my work so I work from home and try to visit our teaching prefab when I can to see the students and other staff.... I have had my 10 minutes salvage in my usual office, but never get to drive my usual route to work, although our campus in Zone 5 was released from the cordon on Friday, so perhaps I will soon. A chance to tidy up!

For those of you overseas... we are fine. We are here, coping with the new normal, establishing plans for the winter and everyone is dealing with issues like insurance claims, home and work relocations, school displacements, real or suspected redundancies, business insolvencies... uncertainty and confusion.
Still nothing compared to Japan, but we can empathise to some degree.

Finally, here is a great place to check before and after aerial views of the whole city.

We spend time checking out what is going, going GONE from the latest list of proposed demolitions...

Civil Defence today revealed the list of 184 buildings, as at 31 March, in Christchurch set for demolition, partial demolition or make safe.  
Seven of these buildings were listed as critical, based on being more than five stories tall, proximity to other buildings and subsequent risk. 
Really doesn't pay to dwell on what there was...  or what will replace it. Hopefully "the people" will get some say!


  1. It sounds as if things will get worse long before it gets better. I wish I could share my bathroom fixtures with you. The longest I ever had to contend with no power, thus no flushing, (power needed for water to be pumped) was two weeks. I pray that those in charge will get you a chemical toilet SOON. I continue to pray for NZ and Japan.

  2. Feeling for you Fi...and my family :/ Mum and dads sewerage system in Avondale gave out today and so yeah theirs is not a nice situation again. I hope those suburbs that haven't been too affected really do heed the warnings given to ease up on flushing, baths, showers etc. Even though in the same city...out of sight out of mind for some if they never have to access the Eastern side of town.

    I so know what you mean about being in a different town and eyeing up everything around you. Experiencing the quake and the abject terror afterwards of having to drive down Brougham Street with trucks carrying container units parked at lights beside me...or trees in the centre median strips or powerlines on sides of roads.... incase heavy aftershocks happen and things land on you.... sort of leeches its way in to your life no matter what town....what if... what if i say!

    Cheers and treat yourself to something really nice :) a massage maybe... something for a bit of stress relief. xx


  3. The family want to come down to Christchurch for the rugby this summer. Is it still on ?

  4. Thank you all for the comments..
    angus, the games have all been transferred tomalternative venues ... Auckland Wellington or Dunedin mainly. Sad loss but reality is we are totally unable to cope here.
    At least it will still happenin NZ


Comments welcome....always love to hear what you think!


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