Hunter Water launches audit after Elermore Vale units flood for second time in a decade

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HUNTER Water has launched an audit of water mains in residential areas across the region after an Elermore Vale townhouse complex flooded for the second time in seven years.

It comes after Hunter Water managing director Jim Bentley described Friday’s damage as “horrifying” and said there was “no doubt” that the water corporation was responsible.

Furious residents were demanding answers in the hours after the water main ruptured, telling the Newcastle Herald it “beggared belief” history was repeating itself.

In 2010, up to 17 townhouses in the same complex suffered extensive damage after a metre-high wall of water hurtled towards their homes, in circumstances remarkably similar to Friday’s incident, with some residents telling the Herald legal action was still pending over the initial burst. 

Alf Williams was devastated by the damage to his property, which sits metres from the main.

“At the end of the day it is Hunter Water’s pipe and they have caused the damage,” Mr Williams said. 

“They need to clean up the mess and that means owning their mistake. We’re concerned they’ll just say, ‘Not our problem’. How could this happen?”

BLOW-OUT: This unit succumbed to the water pressure. Picture: Marina Neil

BLOW-OUT: This unit succumbed to the water pressure. Picture: Marina Neil

Emma Ellwood, who was uninsured, estimated the damage to her furniture to run into the thousands.

She lived at the rental property with her daughter and said she didn’t know where they would go after it was rendered unlivable.

“It’s remarkable how much water can change your life,” she said.

“We’re out of here now, all this is ruined and we’ve got no insurance. We only just moved here.”

Nick Millard said “some things you can’t replace”.

Hunter Water was offering affected residents temporary accommodation and crews had been on the scene and cleaning up since 4am.

Security guards had also been employed to guard against looting.

Dr Bentley apologised to all affected residents and promised that the utility would work with them on a “case by case basis”.

“As anyone would be, I’m horrified that people have suffered like this,” he said.

RUINED: The water-sodden floor of an Elermore Vale living room. Picture: Marina Neil

RUINED: The water-sodden floor of an Elermore Vale living room. Picture: Marina Neil

“A main of ours has burst; no one else is responsible for that and we’re doing everything we can to support people and return their lives to normal.”

A statement released by Hunter Water to the Herald on Friday afternoon said it was considering decommissioning the Elermore Vale main, among other options which included replacement or refurbishment.

The utility also said it would carry out an audit of water mains in residential areas across the Hunter “to identify potential risks and prevent this from happening elsewhere in the region”.

There was no specific cause for Friday’s rupture.

“All pipe networks are vulnerable to leaks and breaks. Factors that may cause a break include the pipe material, how it was installed, location, age, soil conditions, weather, and other environmental impacts,” a Hunter Water spokesman said.