A Wellington man says residents’ reports of a small river of water from a leaking main went unheeded for two weeks before it burst — sending a torrent of mud and trees onto a pathway below.
Two hundred homes in Houghton Bay were left without water when the main ruptured on Tuesday afternoon.
Richard Cooke said someone could have been killed if they had been on a pathway to a nearby playcentre when the main finally gave way.
“I heard a massive crash; it sounded like, well, the hillside and trees coming down. It’d blown out the side of the retaining wall underneath where the leak was starting from.
“I looked up and there’s a couple of teenaged girls. It looked like they’d been walking down the pavement when it blew underneath them. It must’ve scared the hell out of them,” Cooke said.
Cooke said the main had been sending “a small river” into the valley for nearly a month before it burst.
“It was a decent-sized creek, enough to cause a waterfall coming down the hill and wash out a track that we were walking across. We’re talking about 20 to 50 litres a second coming down the hill.”
His neighbour had reported the original fault about two weeks before the main blew and Cooke contacted the council on Monday when the pressure began to lift the pavement above the leak.
Contractors had just arrived at the scene when the main suddenly ruptured.
“If anyone was walking across that bridge they would’ve been hit by — I don’t know —how many tonnes of mud, water and trees that’d been uprooted and washed down the hill. That’s what really p***ed me off. It was so avoidable and it ended up being dangerous as hell,” Cooke said.
He could not believe the leaking main was allowed to escalate into a dangerous situation in the middle of a water shortage, he said.
Dog walker also told council
Claudia Schötz walks her dog along the pathways that run beneath the water main.
She said she was aware of the leak a week before she reported it to council on January 10.
Five days later, the amount of runoff had grown and she called in again, this time supplying GPS co-ordinates in case council staff had been unable to find the location below the road.
“It had widened over a much wider area coming down the hill in several five to ten metre widths. People with children use that path to get to the playcentre so that was a concern,” Schötz said.
She said work on a mains pressure relief valve was completed in the area just before Christmas and she suspected the pipe started leaking almost immediately after that.
“I just struggle that fresh water supply and leaks are not a main priority. The whole infrastructure needs to be prioritised rather than working on other projects that are less urgent because without water we are in real strife,” she said.
Wellington is currently at level two water restrictions with residents being advised to conserve water and refrain from using unattended irrigation or sprinklers.
Wellington Water has said there is a 76% chance the city will escalate its restriction levels before summer ends.