Concerns over sewerage system
RAW sewage is being collected daily by trucks from a new housing estate in Gracemere because homes were occupied before mains sewers were connected.
The toilet waste from at least 30 houses is draining into a pit close to the residential development, raising concerns over health and the wisdom of council officials who allowed construction before essential infrastructure was installed.
One councillor described the situation yesterday as an embarrassment and said it was extraordinary that the council was picking up the bill for the human waste to be sucked into vac (vacuum) trucks to be taken for treatment.
It could be weeks before a permanent main and pumping station are completed, linking the new houses to Gracemere's sewerage system.
And a senior planning consultant told The Morning Bulletin yesterday that the situation was rare.
"It is not normal for building permits to be granted if houses can't be connected to sewers," he said.
"This will be costing a lot of money and it sounds like a big mistake to me. It appears the council's workforce can't keep up with the level of growth in Gracemere."
Senior council officers approved the application for 106 residential allotments on 14.42 hectares off Lucas St under delegated authority on December 19.
But locals say some houses were occupied before Christmas.
Other developers are reluctant to comment because they rely on good relations with council officers but it is understood that some are angry that this development appears to have been given favourable treatment to allow it to meet demand for housing in Gracemere.
Cr Glenda Mather said councillors had not been consulted and she wanted to know why because she felt the approval set a dangerous precedent.
"Clearly it's a precedent, one which other developers could request to get a quick return where infrastructure is incomplete.
"Why should ratepayers pick up the costs because the developer is in a hurry to sell his land or houses?
"Why can't he wait his turn like the others?
"There's no doubt this will cause a lot of anger in the industry."
Answering The Morning Bulletin's questions, the council called the arrangement a "staging strategy".
"The completion of houses in the catchment - at about 10 a day - has exacerbated this issue."
The statement denied that there had been complaints about smell or potential health risks.
"There is a temporary gravity main being installed in the next few days."
The council says that it has not advised public health authorities on the sewerage pit because there had been no discharges and insisted there was no threat to public health.
It did not say how much the exercise was costing but said the sewerage system would be connected to the houses in four to six weeks, weather permitting.