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Contaminated sites poses minimal health risk

MEDIA RELEASE

Whakatane contaminated sites poses minimal health risk, report says

For immediate release: Thursday 11 December 2003

Twelve Whakatane sites contaminated by sawmill waste pose minimal risk to people’s health as long as the land is not dug up and bore water is not drunk from it, a scientific report says.

Researcher Gulf Resource Management has filed a final report on 12 of 28 sites known to have received wood waste from the Whakatane sawmill between 1950 and the early 1980s. They include Whakatane’s Mataatua reserve and several marae and lifestyle blocks, all within 15 minutes drive of the Eastern Bay of Plenty town.

Gulf Research Management was give the task of investigating the sites by a joint working party made up of Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP), Environment Bay of Plenty, Whakatane District Council and Toi Te Ora Public Health.

The working party has closely studied the report and unanimously accepts its recommendations.

Sawmill Works Against Poisons, whose members identified the sites as historic dumping grounds for sawmill and boardmill waste, is pleased with the report. “It confirms our suspicious that contamination from the Whakatane Sawmill and Boardmills has affected land within the Whakatane area,” says coordinator Joe Harawira.

Environment Bay of Plenty’s Paul Dell, group manager regulation and resource management, is satisfied the sites pose minimal health risk to humans or animals “provided appropriate safeguards are put in place”. These include covering some sites with soil and not allowing excavation of the land or the use of bore water. An ongoing monitoring programme will be developed by Environment Bay of Plenty and Whakatane District Council and considered by the working party.

Mr Dell says the “uncertainty is now over” for landowners, who have been waiting for the report to be finished. It is being presented to the regional council meeting today (Thursday 11 December) and landowners will receive a copy of the data for their land.

Mr Dell says the results gives him confidence for the remaining 16 sites, which are also being investigated. Environment Bay of Plenty is spending close to $250,000 on the investigative work.

ENDS

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