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Initiative to prioritise contaminated sites for remediation

Hon Amy Adams
Minister for the Environment

13 August 2014

Initiative to prioritise contaminated sites for remediation

Environment Minister Amy Adams today announced a new initiative which identifies and ranks priority sites for clean-up under the Government’s contaminated sites remediation programme.

Ms Adams also announced immediate funding of nearly $2.5 million to remediate two of the contaminated sites identified as a priority.

Identification and management of contaminated sites are the responsibility of local and regional councils, and remediation is generally at the cost of the landowner.

However, in instances where the contamination is historical and the responsible party cannot be pursued, regional councils can apply to the Government for funding assistance.

This new initiative allows such requests from around New Zealand to be assessed and prioritised in a robust and transparent way, ensuring funding goes where it is most needed.

The framework for the initiative was developed using an environmental risk management tool, which uses a range of human health and environmental exposure scenarios to quantify the level of risk posed at each site.

The tool assesses the type, amount and concentration of contaminants and looks at a range of human health and environmental exposure scenarios. The scores for each type of exposure are then combined to produce an overall risk score for each site, allowing the sites to be prioritised for funding.

The Government will immediately invest an additional $2.4 million for the remediation of the Kopeopeo Canal near Whakatane, taking total government funding for the project to $4.7 million.

An additional $42,000 will also be made available for the remediation of the Rudolf Steiner School in Christchurch.

The 10 sites on the priority list are eligible for funding under the Government’s Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund.

In order to qualify for the Fund, applicants, which in most cases are regional councils, are required to contribute a minimum of 50 per cent towards the cost of remediating a site.

The priority list will be updated as sites are remediated, new sites come to light or sites are no longer considered a priority for funding following further investigation.

Ms Adams also announced that the old Oamaru Timber Treatment site has now been fully remediated.

The Government spent more than $125,000 to turn the contaminated site into a public space for the local community.

The site was used for timber treatment from the 1960s until 1985, which involved applying copper, chromium arsenic solution and other substances to the wood.

“The site is next to areas of recreational and ecological significance, such as a Department of Conservation blue penguin colony and a coastal marine area.

“This project is a good example of how the Government’s contaminated sites work programme can turn a previously hazardous site into a safe, usable public area.”

Cleaning up New Zealand’s contaminated sites is a priority for the Government. Since 2008, more than $31 million has been invested to clean up contaminated sites throughout New Zealand, including Tui Mine, Patea Freezing Works, Minginui sawmill and dump, and the Waiwhetu Stream.

The ten priority sites are:

Prohibition Mine
Total project cost: Still to be determined
Government contribution to date: $302,000
Council/Landowner: West Coast Regional Council and Department of Conservation
Location: Waiuta, West Coast

Project Description:

The Prohibition roasting plant site operated from 1935 to 1951 and is located near the Prohibition shaft of the Waiuta Gold Mine on the West Coast. Arsenic-bearing sulphides were roasted at the plant to release gold and processing residue contained high concentrations of arsenic in the form of arsenolite that accumulated throughout the site.
The Department of Conservation has developed a remedial action plan and a tender process to carry out the work is underway.

Alexander Mine
Total project cost: Still to be determined
Government contribution to date: $137,500
Council/Landowner: West Coast Regional Council and Department of Conservation
Location: Alexander River, Grey Valley, West Coast
Project Description:
The Alexander Mine was a hard rock gold mine that operated between 1924 and 1943 and included a similar ore roasting plant to Prohibition Mine. The mining activity has resulted in significant arsenic, mercury and cyanide contamination of the soil at the site.
The Alexander Mine is located about 10km from Waiuta, has restricted access, and no room to manage contaminated materials on site.

Therefore, because Alexander Mine is close to Prohibition Mine, and Prohibition Mine site can manage the contaminated materials, the two remediation projects will be combined.

Kopeopeo Canal
Total project cost: $11,164,900
Government contribution to date: $4,720,950
Council/Landowner: Bay of Plenty Regional Council
Location: Whakatane
Project Description:
The Kopeopeo Canal was constructed to carry drainage and flood waters from low lying farmland in the Rangitaiki Plains into the Whakatane Estuary. Between 1950 and 1989 the canal was contaminated by dioxin from surface run-off and storm water discharges from the NZ Forest Products Ltd Sawmill. Investigations in 2005 found the levels of dioxins in the sediments and eels were elevated.

The remediation project will remove the contaminated sediments from the Kopeopeo Canal and place them in secure storage cells designed to aid the bioremediation of the dioxins.

Remedial work is due to start in December 2014.

Calwell Slipway
Total project cost: $184,631
Government contribution to date: $92,000
Council/landowner: Nelson City Council and Port Nelson Limited
Location: Port Nelson
Project Description:
The contamination of the Calwell Slipway began in 1970, due to the inadequate containment and inappropriate disposal of washwater. RMA consents now require that vessels being serviced must be out of the water and fully bunded before work commences. Washwater and debris from ship maintenance must now be collected and disposed of appropriately.

The Environment Ministry is currently discussing options for the remediation of the Calwell Slipway with Nelson City Council and the Port Authority.

Te Mome Stream
Council/landowner: Greater Wellington/Multiple landowners
Location: Seaview, Lower Hutt
Project Description:
The Te Mome Stream is an isolated tributary of the Hutt River. It receives large amounts of stormwater from the Hutt Valley catchment and industrial discharges from adjacent industries. The sediment of the stream is known to contain high concentrations of heavy metals, very similar to those found in the Waiwhetu Stream. The Exide battery reprocessing plant was located near to Te Mome Stream and appears to be the main source of the heavy metal contamination although other industries cannot be ruled out. The Te Mome Stream discharges into the Hutt River and the Wellington Harbour.

The next steps are for the Environment Ministry and Greater Wellington Regional Council to discuss options for remediation.

Miramar Gasworks
Council: Greater Wellington Regional Council
Location: Miramar, Wellington
Project Description:
The Wellington Gas company operated a coal gas plant on the site between 1915 and 1972. Following the demolition of the plant in 1972, the site was subdivided for industrial developments and properties were sold to a number of private purchasers.

The former gasworks site is contaminated by a variety of organic compounds including polyaromatic hydrocarbons and benzene that are typical of gasworks waste. Many of these compounds are known carcinogens.

There is also some risk to the environment as a result of contaminated groundwater entering the stormwater system and discharging into the Wellington Harbour.

The next steps are for the Environment Ministry and Greater Wellington to discuss options for remediation.

Onehunga Aquifer

Total project cost: $2.56 million
Government contribution to date: $627,093
Council/landowner: Auckland Council
Location: Onehunga, Auckland
Project Description:
The former New Zealand Farmers Fertiliser Works was operated from 1910-1984 for the manufacture, storage and handling of fertiliser products. Contamination of the site, groundwater and surface water occurred from on-site storage of raw material and effluent discharges. Off-site discharges had also effected nearby waterways including the Miami Stream and Manukau Harbour.

The next steps are for the Environment Ministry and Auckland Council to discuss options for remediation.

Rotowaro Carbonisation Plant
Total project cost: $270,996
Government contribution to date: $189,669
Council: Waikato Regional Council
Location: 8km north west of Huntly, Waikato
Project Description:
From the late 1930s until 1985, Waikato Carbonisation Limited made coke, coal tar and creosote from coal at its Rotowaro plant, near Huntly. There were few controls on the use of dangerous substances and waste was discharged with little or no treatment.

During the 1980s, efforts were made to find other ways to dispose of the wastewater – with no success. Industrial rubbish and derelict equipment, waste oils and tar littered the site, and runoff carried phenols, ammonia and hydrocarbons into the Awaroa stream.

After a fire in 1985 the company went into voluntary liquidation. The site was abandoned and presented serious risks to peoples’ health.

The next steps are for the Environment Ministry and the Waikato Regional Council to discuss options for remediation.

Masterton Gasworks
Total project cost: $54,000
Government contribution to date: $24,000
Council/Landowner: Masterton District Council
Location: Masterton, Wairarapa
Project Description:
The former Masterton Gasworks site was established between 1907 and 1910 and continued to operate until the 1970s.

An investigation showed that most of the site was significantly contaminated. The highest concentrations of contaminants were found in the immediate vicinity of the main gas production area. The major contaminants in this area were lead, cyanide and benzo[a]pryene. Many of these samples exceeded the guideline values for residential land use and, in a few instances, industrial/commercial guidelines.

The next steps are for the Environment Ministry and Greater Wellington Regional Council to discuss options for remediation.

Rudolf Steiner School, Christchurch
Total project cost: $150,000
Government contribution to date: $75,500
Council/Landowner: Environment Canterbury and Christchurch Rudolf Steiner School Trust
Location: Opawa, Christchurch
Project Description:
The Christchurch Rudolf Steiner School is located over the former Ombersley Terrace municipal landfill that closed in 1955. The project will remediate soil which contains lead, arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene. The project will also include a ground gas assessment to define the thickness and nature of the landfill cap and the development of a site management plan for the long term management of the site.

Remedial work is due to commence in September 2014.

ENDS

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