Drums contained toxins

09/06/2009

CAMERON BURNELL/ Taranaki Daily News PARK PROBLEM: Homes overlook earthworks at New Plymouth's Marfell Park, the former Cook St tip, where drums containing toxic agrichemicals were found.

CAMERON BURNELL/ Taranaki Daily News PARK PROBLEM: Homes overlook earthworks at New Plymouth’s Marfell Park, the former Cook St tip, where drums containing toxic agrichemicals were found.

Toxic chemicals have been found at a children’s playground in Marfell, the site of a New Plymouth’s former city dump.

The chemicals were tetrachlorobenzene and trichlorophenol, both used in the manufacture of herbicides, Taranaki Regional Council director of environment quality Gary Bedford said yesterday.

Workers laying a stormwater drain discovered two drums containing chemicals at Marfell Park in May, and further excavation revealed remnants of at least seven other drums.

The Taranaki Regional Council said yesterday the chemicals were not a public health risk, but long-time dioxin campaigner Andrew Gibbs said the find was “abominable.”

“It is of concern when you find those levels of chemicals under a children’s playground,” Mr Gibbs said.

He believed it proved the TRC’s 2001 investigation which found no evidence of illegal dumping at 31 alleged contaminated sites, including Marfell Park, had been wrong.

“They’ve ignored the problem because of where it is. If it was in another suburb then would they care?”

The TRC launched its 2001 investigation after fears that cancer-causing dioxin waste from the Ivon Watkins herbicide plant had been buried at various sites around New Plymouth.

Mr Bedford said yesterday that given that the Marfell site used to be a landfill up to the 1960s, dumping the chemicals would not have been illegal.

“It’s not a surprise but, no, we did not know they were there,” he said.

Mr Bedford said as the drums had been buried up to two metres below the surface and there was no sign of leaching, there was nothing for residents to be worried about. The council had removed 70 cubic metres of soil as a “very precautionary” measure, he said.

“These are chemicals that we want to be sensible about and you wouldn’t want to have exposed to the public,” he said.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said the find should trigger an independent review.

“Are these the drums that were dumped that have finally been found? That so many people have alleged were there?

“Children should not be playing there.

“It is irresponsible to say the least to allow a children’s playground,” Ms Kedgley said.

“It is one thing to dump some rubbish and another thing to dump container-loads of lethal chemicals.”

The discovery again brings to the surface decades of claims that the Paritutu chemical manufacturer has affected the health of Paritutu residents.

Ivon Watkins now Dow AgroSciences produced 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D from 1962 to 1987, a byproduct of which is dioxin, a known carcinogen.

In 2000, in response to activists lead by Mr Gibbs, then Health Minister Annette King promised an investigation.

Suspected dump sites were checked, soil testing carried out and an Institute of Environmental Science and Research blood analysis of a group of long-term Paritutu residents found that on average they had elevated levels of dioxin.

Experts said the results confirmed the residents were at risk of higher levels of cancers and other health-related conditions.

In response, the Ministry of Health last year set up a world-first health service in order that eligible residents could receive free health care.

Last night, Dow AgroSciences general manager Peter Dryden declined to comment and referred Taranaki Daily News questions to the TRC.

09/06/2009 | NEWS-2009-M06-09-002 | stuff.co.nz | KIRSTY JOHNSTON Taranaki Daily News
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