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Potentially contaminated land mail out starts today

Potentially contaminated land mail out starts today

Only a small percentage of those landowners whose Christchurch properties have recently been identified as potentially contaminated will need to do anything about it, says Environment Canterbury Investigations and Monitoring Director Ken Taylor.

From today, Environment Canterbury begins a four-week mail-out to the owners of about 11,000 Christchurch properties that may have soil contaminated by chemicals or hazardous substances remaining in the ground from a previous use of the land, such as an orchard, market garden or landfill.

“People have a right to know what their land has been used for in the past if it could have contaminated the soil. Most people receiving notification will not need to do anything. It’s only those landowners needing to carry out major land repairs, foundation work or rebuilds as a result of the earthquakes who will have to take any action,” Mr Taylor says.

The number of properties likely to be affected because of significant land damage (EQC Increased Vulnerability to Liquefaction) is 665 and a further 450 affected by having to undertake a major rebuild.

“In most instances, major repairs are likely to be covered by either EQC (land repairs) or their private insurer (rebuilds), which means the necessary consents and soil testing work would be managed for the landowner,” he says.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says that there is very low risk to health from living on contaminated land.

“Even if a property is contaminated, it is very unlikely that the level of contamination will be high enough to result in any health issues,” says Dr Pink.

Dr Pink says that there are some simple things people can do – such as washing your hands after being in the garden – that will further reduce any health risks. For more information on minimising any potential health risk go towww.cph.co.nz/HAIL

Landowners not engaged in major land repair or rebuilding may choose not to get their soil tested.

“In many cases, the soil will be fine. Just because someone’s land has been an orchard, for instance, does not necessarily mean hazardous substances were actually used or buried there, just that they could have been,” Mr Taylor says. “It’s our job to record this and let the landowner know.”

Based on our experience, it’s not that common to find concentrations of contaminants on a Canterbury site high enough to cause long-term health effects, Mr Taylor says.

Environment Canterbury has been working closely with environmental science experts, EQC, the Christchurch City Council, Ministry for the Environment and CERA, to ensure people understand the options available to them whether they are engaged in rebuilding a home or not.


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