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Public help needed to find ecological vandals


September 13, 2006

MEDIA STATEMENT

ECan calls for public help in tracking down ecological vandals in Curletts Rd industrial zone

Environment Canterbury is calling for public assistance to find out who might have poured an ammonia-based fluid into Christchurch’s Curletts Rd drain two weeks ago. The pollution has subsequently killed hundreds of eels living in the drain.

“This is the worst waterway ECan deals with in Christchurch in terms of serious pollution events,” says ECan RMA compliance and monitoring manager Evan Walker.

“City Care yesterday alerted the Pollution Hotline to large numbers of dead and rotting eels,” says Mr Walker. “ECan also yesterday got back the results of a water sample taken on August 31 when we were first alerted to the problem of a few fresh eel deaths in the drain by a member of the public. There was no indication at that stage that the pollution was as serious as it has turned out to be. That sample shows ammonia concentrations double the amount to kill off fish life, suggesting the pollutant may be a cleaning product or a refrigerant. This kind of product is invisible in the water and is extremely difficult to track back to a source as it leaves no trail.

“For this reason, we need the public and industries operating in this area to help us out in tracking the cause of this incident and the polluter.

“If we can track down the source of the pollution, we will look at prosecuting. This is the third time in two years the Curletts Rd stormwater drain, which runs into the Heathcote River, has suffered from significant pollution. We would welcome feedback from members of the public and from people working in this area which may help us trace the source or cause of this spill – phone our Pollution Hotline 366 4663.”

Background: previous incidents in the Curletts Rd drain/Heathcote River:
The Curletts Rd drain winds through an industrial area with numerous different industries nearby, many with petrol and oil storage facilities and cleaning products.

Environment Canterbury has dealt with several significant and potentially significant pollution incidents in the Curletts Rd drain area over the past two years alone, including this incident.

In March 2005, a lubricating and cooling oil used in the wire-making process at General Cable overflowed from a bunded storage tank but was largely contained and well managed by the company who closed off their stormwater system and pumped the oil out of the drain.

In February 2005 a diesel spill into drains feeding into the Heathcote coated hundreds of ducks with oil. Around 200 diesel-coated ducks were captured, cleaned and rehabilitated by a specialist team and about 60 died or were euthanased. An ECan prosecution of Steel Bros relating to that case will be heard in the Christchurch District Court September 21 and 22 – next week.

ENDS


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