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Council pleased with funding for Kopeopeo Canal remediation

Regional Council pleased with funding for Kopeopeo Canal remediation

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is pleased with the announcement from the Minister for the Environment today that additional funding would be available to progress the remediation of the Kopeopeo Canal near Whakatāne.

Regional Council is working with Toi Te Ora Public Health, Ministry for the Environment, and Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP), the Whakatāne-Waimana River Liaison Group and Ngāti Awa to clean up dioxin contaminated sediment in the Kopeopeo Canal.

The canal was contaminated in the 1950s to late 1980s as a result of stormwater discharges from a former sawmill, which treated timber using Pentachlorophenol (PCP). While unknown at the time, all PCP that was imported into New Zealand for use in the timber processing industry also included a percentage of impurities which contained dioxins.

As owners of the Kopeopeo Canal, Council has a statutory and regulatory responsibility to manage contaminated land and protect the community and the environment.

Resource consents were granted for the remediation works earlier this year and that decision is currently under appeal. Any funding from central government will be conditional on that appeal being resolved.

Regional Council Chair, Doug Leeder, was pleased with the confidence placed in the project from central government and the additional funding available through the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund.

“We have been through an extensive process to get to this point. At 5km, the Kopeopeo Canal site is the largest on the Ministry’s Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund Priority List and significant research, experience and expertise has gone into the selection and development of the solution that Council is proposing.

“This is our opportunity as responsible landowners to leave our land in a better state for future generations to enjoy. We will continue to work closely with the local community to ensure that there are open lines of communication throughout the process. We appreciate that it is a significant issue for those that live alongside the Canal, both in its existing state and as we work to remove, fully contain and treat the sediment using an enhanced bioremediation process,” Mr Leeder said.

The Ministry ranks sites on the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund Priority List using a number of human health and environmental exposure risk factors. The last successful remediation project managed by Regional Council and jointly funded through the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund and landowners was the Ōmokoroa Slipway Remediation Project.

In approving funding for the Kopeopeo Canal project, the Ministry considered several factors including significant levels of contaminants over a large area, proximity to neighbouring properties, and potential risks associated with more widespread impact during a significant flood event. There are also additional exposure pathways through the food chain as tuna/eel were historically caught in the canal until testing revealed high contaminant levels. Since that time a health risk advisory warning has been put in place and fishing from the Kopeopeo has ceased.

You can find out more about the project at www.boprc.govt.nz/kopeopeo


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