A dead hedgehog, disposable nappies and several pieces of cloth were responsible for a 48,000-litre sewage spill that affected two low-lying Taupo properties.
An estimated 30,000 litres of raw sewage washed through the basement of one of the houses involved after the sewerage system blockage last Friday morning, which was caused by a blocked manhole.
The Taupo District Council said the blockage was caused by inappropriate materials entering the wastewater system - including nappies and cloths.
Asset manager of water and waste Ramesh Sharma said the council acted quickly to engage contractors to pump the sewage from the properties and to clean and sanitise the affected areas. The call was received at 10.21am and the contractor was on site by 10.45am to begin pumping the sewage away.
After the sewage was removed, both houses were cleaned and sanitised and the operation was complete by 5pm, although residents contacted this week were still working to reinstate their houses.
The sewage spill, the second in eight years in the street, had emphasised the importance of the system being used correctly, Mr Sharma said. "Everybody has a part to play in ensuring blockages like this do not occur. We began a public education campaign in November in an effort to encourage people to take more care with what they are putting down their drains because they need to know that their actions can have a negative impact on others."
Things like oil, grease, fat, bandages, sanitary pads, nappies and fabric wipes can clog the system and cause problems. Trees should not be planted within 3m of manholes and sewer manholes should be kept free of grass and vegetation.
"We want to keep spillages like this to an absolute minimum and are in the process of completing a programme to check and clear sewer lines and manholes where blockages have previously been found. If everybody does their bit we will be able to continue to deliver an efficient wastewater service with minimum harm to the environment and keep costs down."
The affected residents did not want to comment.