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Flushed underwear in Alexandra proves costly for Otago community

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Some examples of the children’s underwear, which has cost the Central Otago District Council more than $3500 in the past year. Photo / Central Otago District Council

While stinky undies may be the punchline of many a schoolyard joke, for the Central Otago District Council they are no laughing matter.

In fact, unwanted underwear in all the wrong places has cost the council more than $3500 in the past year.

Since May 2023, the CODC water services team had been called to the same Alexandra wastewater pump station 11 times to remove the same type of blockage – a pair of children’s underwear, size 6-12.

The pump, in Eureka St, had been blocked by underwear of this type twice in the past week.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, the council urged parents to speak to their children about “what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet”.

A spokesperson said the rate of blockages at the Eureka St pump was costly for the community.

CODC wastewater pump stations were monitored 24 hours a day by a remote system and when the pumps failed, an alarm was sent to operators who had to attend the site to address the issue.

“Each incident requires the pumps to be lifted and cleared before they can be put back into service,” the spokesperson said.

Although the frequency of blockages from underwear was unusual – blockages in the wastewater network caused by things residents should not be flushing was common, the spokesperson said.

“Blockages caused by incorrectly flushing wet wipes, sanitary items and putting cooking fats and oils down the kitchen drain all contribute to elevated operational cost to the community.

“We might not think that the residual oil in our frying pan or the couple of wipes we flush would cause an issue, but when that accumulates from every household in a town, it results in significant issues.”

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