Unfortunate sewage problem at NZs tallest apartment tower, The Pacifica, now resolved

An empty drink bottle blocked a sewer pipe at New Zealand’s tallest apartment tower, causing backup which damaged apartments but that was quickly resolved, a building chief says.

Dan Ashby, director of commercial construction company Icon which built Auckland’s 57-level The Pacifica, said the bottle had blocked a sewer pipe.

“There was an unfortunate incident at a sewer stack which is the vertical pipes that collect wastewater from the apartments and take it down through the building to the drainage systems at ground level. That got blocked and caused some backflow of wastewater, which caused damage to wall and floor coverings in six or seven apartments,” Ashby said.

The blockage was caused by an empty plastic soft drink bottle which Ashby said was believed to have been left in a drainage branch pipe, either maliciously or by accident.

The bottle was put there at the end of construction and over time, was pushed by water flow to where it created a blockage, he said.

This occurred in April, more than three months after the tower was complete, he said.

“It appears that this item escaped our quality assurance and commissioning processes.These are both rigorous and comprehensive, but unfortunately in large complex buildings items occasionally slip through the very best processes and controls.

“As soon as the issue happened, Icon- with our client Hengyi’s approval -immediately relocated the affected apartment owners to alternative accommodation so that the damage could be assessed and remediated. The repairs and cleaning were carried out over the following two to three weeks.”

As a precaution, Icon also carried out a full additional survey by putting CCTV cameras down the sewer stacks throughout the building to assure itself, Hengyi and residents that this was an isolated incident, he said.

“This comprehensive survey found no other construction debris in the system. The full camera records were provided to the building manager to add to the extensive commissioning records which were provided at the completion of construction,” Ashby said today.

Icon is completing its defects liability period which is a normal part of major building contracts providing a 12 month period, he said.

That ends next month.

Up until that time, the builder is responsible for problems that emerge as the building is occupied and becomes operational, he said.

“As is completely normal in major buildings, various operational or cosmetic items have arisen and have been dealt with by our staff and subcontractors as appropriate. None of these have been of major or systemic consequence, or outside the norms for a large, complex, high-quality project of this nature.”

His comments on the situation were sought after one apartment dweller told the Herald of issues.

The ex-resident sent photographs showing damage to the place he lived in and said he had to leave the tower.

“Several owners and renters had to evacuate. The issue was caused by plastic bottles being left in a wastewater stack on the eastern side of the building by contractors during construction. Prior to this being discovered, the builder Icon and the building management blamed owners which was absurd and patently ridiculous,” the ex-resident said.

The block is between Commerce St and Gore St near the Britomart.

He responded after the Herald published a video inside a Manukau high-rise apartment block.

Around 500 residents of Manukau’s tallest apartment block were evacuated last month after a water main burst on level 11 of the 15-storey building near the Southern Motorway.

Brad Mosby, district manager of Fire and Emergency NZ, said services went to the Lakewood Plaza on Lakewood Court.

The block was developed around a year ago by Kenyon and Charlotte Clarke’s Du Val Group in a joint venture with builder Downey.

A Du Val spokesperson said on November 18: “From today, we will have the majority of residents back but in a few apartments, carpet has to be taken up. The whole of the building is covered by body corporate insurance which covers the loss of rent.”

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