Greens demand closure of park

30/06/2009

Marfell Park must be closed immediately to ensure the safety of the community, says the Green Party’s spokesperson, Catherine Delahunty.

“The park must be closed to the public and fenced off immediately.

“A wait-and-see approach is just too dangerous,” Ms Delahunty said.

The call is in response to the find by New Plymouth District Council contractors in May of drums containing toxic chemicals, including dioxin, were uncovered during the excavation of a stormwater trench.

However, the Taranaki Regional Council yesterday continued to reassure residents that there was now no health risk after both the drums containing toxic chemicals and the soil surrounding them were removed.

That stance is supported by independent contaminants consultant Graeme Proffitt, who has been brought in by the TRC to deal with the contentious incident.

Following behind-door community consultation last week, Dr Proffitt’s report on what should happen now with the park is due to be released next Monday.

But Ms Delahunty urged the council to adopt a safety-first approach until further testing was done to identify the scale of the contamination.

To date, testing of soil from the park had detected a range of chemicals, not just the three initially identified and associated with the recovered drums, she said.

“The evidence points to more widespread contamination than initially reported,” she said.

The soil analysis released last week showed levels of chlordane, dieldrin, pentachlorophenol, fenchlorophos and indicators of DDT.

“Most of these chemicals are now banned due to their extreme toxicity and some are members of the notorious `dirty dozen’ club of lethal chemicals,” Ms Delahunty said.

While a fence had now been erect to prevent children playing on the stockpile of clean soil to be used to re-cover the playground, there should be warning signs.

“Despite overwhelming public concern and many meetings of councils and the [Taranaki] District Health Board, the park remains open to unsuspecting families.

“Even the most simple and commonsense protection measure of putting up warning signs has not occurred.”

TRC environment director Gary Bedford responded that the area was safe for the public to use. All relevant information on the find and the clean-up could be found on the TRC website, he said.

“The information we have provided addresses why we have acted in the way that we have.”

Last week, after the Taranaki District Health Board was briefed by the TRC, the board’s principal health protection officer, David de Jager, said that the TDHB was happy with the action being taken by the TRC.

The 16 questionnaires returned last week following a letter drop to about 230 homes in the Marfell area had expressed genuine interest and concern, Mr Bedford said.

Dr Proffitt’s brief was to engage with the community and come up with a site assessment and investigation plan that could provide answers for the community, Mr Bedford said.

“The basic question is whether the park is safe for neighbours and residents.”

Dr Proffitt’s report would be publicly released next Monday after it was put past both key agencies and community representatives “to make sure we have got it right”, Mr Bedford said.

30/06/2009 | LYN HUMPHREYS | Daily News | NEWS-2009-M06-30-001 | stuff.co.nz
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