RESIDENTS of apartment blocks at Newcastle West near the Marketown shopping centre say they are appalled at the stink coming from an ageing Hunter Water pumping station off King Street next to Cottage Creek.
The smell comes and goes at ground level depending on the conditions, but is often worse on still mornings.
People living in the Verve towerson King Street and the Spire apartments built over the two-storey Woolworths side of Marketown told the Newcastle Herald at the weekend that the stench meant living with the windows shut if the wind was blowing their way.
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Hunter Water says the "vent stack" is 110 years old and 27 metres high, making it less than half the height of the Verve apartments - 20 storeys and 60 metres tall - and about the same height as the seven-storey Spire apartments sitting on top of the two-storey Woolworths building.
Hunter Water says it is working on an "interim upgrade" to be completed by the end of March and had spent $215,000 "developing and implementing improvements" to the pumping station to "reduce odours".
But the residents say they have been all but ignored by Hunter Water in their efforts to register concern.
They have incorporated the NewWest Community Group to lobby on CBD improvement issues including the sewage smell.
"We realise that it is old infrastructure, and that this part of Newcastle is changing rapidly, but there is no reason Hunter Water can't keep up," Ms Heaney said.
"As they say in their responses to your questions: 'Hunter Water has a role in the development planning process, assessing each new development application to ensure we can provide water and wastewater services.'
"So they and the council can't say they don't know what is going on. They can't say they want people to live here, and then do nothing about pretty obvious problems."
The Verve apartments opened in 2019 and the residents say the smell was obvious from the start.
Hunter Water told the Herald the pumping station was one of the largest in its system, taking sewage from "the western parts of the Newcastle CBD as well as . . . Adamstown, Broadmeadow, Hamilton, Islington, Mayfield, New Lambton, Tighes Hill and Wickham" and pumping it to the Burwood Beach treatment works.
It said the sewer mains in the vicinity had been recently cleaned. Its interim upgrade to "limit ground-level leakage of air" from the pumping station involved replacing "covers and hatches" with "more airtight designs".
Further options "to reduce odorous air" included "reducing turbulent flow conditions" inside the pumping station and installing an air "odour control unit".
"In coordination with the investigations to manage odours at the site, Hunter Water is developing plans to remove the vent stack and install a modern vent stack.
"Hunter Water appreciates the ongoing patience of the Newcastle West community while investigative and planning works continue."
One woman wrote to Hunter Water on January 17 last year as a "distressed and very concerned" Verve Apartments resident who was "chemical sensitive" and "suffer(ing) from allergically triggered asthma" she said was brought on by "the stench from this pipe".
A Hunter Water wastewater engineer wrote back on February 28 to say that "investigative work" was under way on "odour control options".
Consultants had been engaged and "funding approval" had been sought to "source a provider in Australia" who could "clean the underground pipe network".
AMP Capital announced in July 2017 that it had bought both the Coles and Woolworths sides of Marketown from Sydney developer David Boyer's Cartier Group for $163 million on behalf of the big Queensland superannuation fund Sunsuper.
Before Marketown, the newer Woolworths side held a gasworks, while the original Coles side was the boxing-turned-concerts venue, Greater Newcastle Stadium. An industrial incinerator stood on part of the site facing the Cottage Creek canal on Parry Street.
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