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New national standard on contaminated soil

New national standard on contaminated soil

Environment Minister Nick Smith today announced a new National Environment Standard on contaminated soil saying clear rules are needed for councils to manage public health risks.

"New Zealand has thousands of sites that have some level of contamination from previous use as gas works, timber treatment plants, livestock dips, fuel stations, chemical plants, sprayed horticulture or mines," Dr Smith said.

Only 14 of 73 district plans have rules to manage these problems. The new National Environment Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health will help protect the public by providing greater certainty on which sites pose a health risk and need containment or clean up.

The 12 soil containments covered by the new National Environment Standard are arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, benzo(a)pyrene, DDT, dieldrin, PCP and dioxin. The concentration limits vary for the five different land uses - rural, residential, high density residential, recreational and commercial/industrial.

"This initiative is part of the Government's broader programme of providing stronger national direction on the Resource Management Act, which includes the new Environmental Protection Authority, and further National Policy Statements and National Environment Standards. It is far more efficient to have one nationwide standard for managing contaminated sites given the expense of expert toxicologists, and the similar risks to human health throughout the country," Dr Smith said.

"A draft of the National Environment Standard was publicly notified and released for consultation in early 2010 drawing 106 submissions. The Government, in response to submissions and expert advice, has tightened the soil contaminant standards, particularly in respect of cadmium, benzo(a)pyrene and lead based on the most recent scientific advice.

"There was concern from submitters including the Green Party that this National Environment Standard should go further than just protecting public health and include effects on the natural environment. This was based on advice that there is insufficient robust data to base toxicological limits for protection of the environment.

"I am happy to explore with the Green Party extending the new standard by engaging appropriate expertise to review the best available scientific information on whether this advice is correct."

The National Environment Standard will be gazetted by an Order in Council to take effect on 1 September 2011. A series of workshops will be held and guidance information will be distributed to councils, industry and landowners to assist implementation of the new standard.
The NES is available at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/hazardous/contaminated/

ENDS

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