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Remediation underway at playcentre following tests

31 March 2006

Remediation underway at playcentre following tests

Auckland City is moving to remediate land at the Auckland Central Playcentre in Freeman's Bay after soil testing revealed elevated levels of organic chemicals.

Soil testing was undertaken at the playcentre earlier this year after a desktop study revealed that the property could potentially be contaminated due to its historical use.

Auckland City received the final results of soil tests for the playcentre on Tuesday 28 March and moved quickly to securely cover the affected area.

The cover, which is made of a special high-strength material, will provide protection for anyone on site until remediation works are carried out.

The soil testing showed elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, including benzo-a-pyrene. No other chemicals or metals were found to exceed Ministry for the Environment guidelines.

Auckland City's Deputy Mayor, Dr Bruce Hucker, says the council is a responsible landowner and has a duty of care to the children at the play centre.

He says the concentrations of benzo-a-pyrene found at the surface are not excessive, but the council believes it is best to act quickly to ensure playcentre users are not exposed to the contaminated soil.

"These test results are concerning, but not alarming. The council has taken advice and although there is unlikely to be any immediate risk to users of the site, we feel it's best to adopt a precautionary approach. "We have acted quickly to put a secure high-strength cover over the affected area and we are now moving to remediate the land.

"We're working closely with the parents, staff and children of the playcentre and we will continue to do so to address any concerns they may have," Dr Hucker says.

Benzo-a-pyrene is found in coal tar, diesel, crude oil and tobacco smoke. It is commonly found in soil throughout the Auckland region, especially on former industrial sites.

It is considered to be toxic and can cause temporary digestive and respiratory upsets and skin and eye irritation. It is also a suspected carcinogen.

The testing revealed levels of benzo-a-pyrene at between 0.06 and 4.82 milligrams per kilogram of soil at surface levels on the Freeman's Bay site.

Auckland City takes action to investigate any council-owned residential site that shows levels of benzo-a-pyrene above 0.27 milligrams per kilogram of soil, in line with Ministry for the Environment guidelines.

Levels of benzo-a-pyrene above 3.5mg per kilogram of soil may indicate a potential risk to human health at childcare facilities.

The council's environmental scientists and consultants have advised that the levels of benzo-a-pyrene found are unlikely to be an immediate danger to human health.

Auckland City has passed on the final test results to the Auckland District Health Board.

The council has informed the playcentre parents of the test results and the plan to remediate the site. They are supportive of the action the council is taking.

Dr Hucker says, "We want to reassure the playcentre that we are doing everything we can to ensure the site is completely safe for their future use."

Dr Hucker says Waste Management NZ Ltd will carry out the remediation works as soon as possible. The contractors will remove the top half-metre of soil at both the front and the rear of the property.

They will lay down an anchored barrier mat to prevent any deep contamination from reaching the surface and then re-fill the site with clean soil. This remediation approach is considered to be best practice.

Once this work has been done, the site will be landscaped and upgraded by the council's City Parks Services. New play equipment will also be installed.

The total cost of the work is estimated to be more than $100,000 and will be fully funded by Auckland City.

A final round of tests will be carried out before the site is re-opened for children, staff and parents to use.

Auckland City believes the contaminated soil may have been taken from waterfront land that previously housed the Beaumont Gas Works.

The material was probably used to create a retaining wall and a building platform at the site approximately 30 years ago.

ENDS

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