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Largest Asbestos Removal Project Nears Completion

Largest Asbestos Removal Project Nears Completion

After three years of discussion, negotiation and investigation contractors are nearing completion of one of the largest projects to remove asbestos containing material from residential properties in New Zealand.

Asbestos containing material (ACM) was originally discovered at a site in Manukau during subdivision earthworks in 1997. Manukau City Council subsequently initiated an investigation over 900 hectares of undeveloped and residential land. All but five properties and a shared access-way in the Rakaia Rise area were cleared.

Three possible options were presented to Council to deal with the problem. Do nothing On-site remediation - removing 1m of soil and replacing with clean soil Off-site remediation - excavation of all affected fill material and replacing with clean soil. Off-site remediation was the preferred option for affected property owners and Council agreed it would provide a final solution for everyone. By excavating the fill material and replacing it with clean soil any on-going costs associated with monitoring and controls would be avoided.

In 2002 an agreement was reached between owners and Council to remove all trace of minor dispersed ACM. Approximately 3500 tonnes of soil was initially estimated for removal from a gully behind the five properties. Council says this increased to about 6000 tonne during the 16-week construction period because much of the ACM was mixed in with the soil and could not be extracted separately as first thought. Manukau City Council says the process will be extremely useful in terms of learning for future projects of this nature.

Ree Anderson, Manager Environmental Policy & Monitoring, says the project sets a precedent for future remediation of asbestos containing sites.

“Given that a project like this has never been done on such a scale Council is extremely pleased that it has run so smoothly. It was the best solution given the unique circumstances. Council has received positive feedback from both Auckland District Health Board and OSH after site inspections were carried out. Both residents and neighbouring property owners have been exceptionally patient and supportive during the works,” said Ms Anderson.

“We now have an approved process and guidelines for dealing with sites like Rakaia Rise. While our Council bore the brunt of costs for all the investigative and physical works, $1.7m in total since 1998, it will be an invaluable cost-saving for other local bodies or developers who uncover similar environmental hazards,” said Ms Anderson.

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