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Published 29/04/2020

Major work ready to start on Mt Albert sludge pipeline repair

A temporary speed hump installed in Adelaide Road today signals the start of major repair works on the Mt Albert high-pressure sludge pipelines, following the arrival in Wellington of a team of specialist international technicians and essential materials and equipment.

Wellington Water’s Manager Major Projects, Stephen Wright, says the temporary change is a final part of  preparations for repairing the pipes and ending the sludge trucking operations, between Moa Point and the Southern Landfill, that were put in place to avoid any discharge of sludge into the sea after the pipelines failed.

“Bringing the specialist team and materials here from Germany during the global pandemic and our own lockdown has been a real challenge. We’re extremely grateful to the Government for granting the special permission necessary to bring them here so quickly.”

On arrival in the country, the technicians spent 14 days in quarantine in Auckland before travelling on to Wellington, where they arrived last night.

Wellington City Councillor Sean Rush, who holds the three waters portfolio, says it is fantastic to be at this point in the project.

“The progress that Wellington Water and their project partners have achieved reflects the dedication of the team and the importance of this work to Wellington. It’s a technically challenging project, with a considerable way to go, but it is a relief at last to see some physical progress under way.

“We’re also very grateful to the team from Germany, leaving their families behind in such uncertain times.”

Mr Wright said that during the quarantine period both the specialists and the Wellington-based team had been busy preparing for the work of repairing the damaged pipes. This will be done by drawing a high strength liner through the 1.8km length of pipes in the wastewater tunnel beneath Mt Albert.

Preparations include establishing the temporary speed hump across Adelaide Road near Dover St, and setting up the liner in the nearby tennis courts. The speed hump protects a pipe through which the liner will be drawn by a large winch, and will remain in place until the second liner has been installed.

“The first liner will begin going in early next week,” says Mr Wright. “Winching the liner carefully through the pipe is a tricky process. Once we get started, we can’t stop until it’s all the way through the pipe. That’s about an 18 hour process.”

There will be a considerable amount of noise from the winch at the Kilbirnie end of the tunnel, which is likely to carry on into the night.

“We’re very grateful for the understanding of the community as we carry out this work. Clearly everyone wants it done as quickly as possible. We’ve done all the preparation – but there is still plenty of work do and we’ll do our best to keep everyone informed as we go.”

“The prize is to be able to stop the sludge trucking; we’ll know more by the end of next week about when we should be able to do that.”

The second pipe liner has been made and will be on its way to New Zealand shortly. The technicians will remain in New Zealand until it arrives and can also be installed.

Mr Wright says health and safety is always Wellington Water’s number one priority on major projects, but it’s even more of focus now with Covid-19 to take into account.

“We’ve worked closely with both our local and international teams to ensure we’re all taking every possible precaution to protect our crews.

“We have technicians who’ve left their families during a pandemic and come halfway around the world to help us fix this infrastructure for Wellington, and we plan to keep them safe and healthy while they’re here.”

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