Ratepayers landed with clean-up bill

15/07/2009

ON SITE: Environment Minister Nick Smith, left, with New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and TRC environment director Gary Bedford, right, at New Plymouth's Marfell Park yesterday.

ON SITE: Environment Minister Nick Smith, left, with New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and TRC environment director Gary Bedford, right, at New Plymouth’s Marfell Park yesterday.

New Plymouth district ratepayers will be left with the bulk of the bill for the Marfell Park chemical clean-up despite a Government payout.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said yesterday nearly $25,000 would be made available from the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund for further testing at the site.

The investigation comes after drums containing dioxin were uncovered at the park in May by stormwater workers, sparking concern from nearby residents.

Dioxin was a by-product of chemicals manufactured by the Ivon Watkins-Dow company from the early 1960s until 1987. Dow AgroSciences last month donated $50,000 to the New Plymouth District Council for the clean-up.

However, the Taranaki Daily News understand the total bill for the clean-up, to be paid by the district council as landowner of the park, will be closer to $180,000.

Dr Smith yesterday visited the park with New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and Taranaki Regional Council representatives.

He said that the Government was paying for the cost of the consultants to design the testing programme that began on Monday.

“We are recognising that Taranaki does have a particular problem in this area, but at this stage the level of funding that’s required is not out of order for what the regional council and New Plymouth District Council can be expected to contribute,” Dr Smith said.

“Marfell Park came out of left field, it was a bit of a nasty surprise … but the community need a reassurance that this site and this playground area is safe.”

That assurance should be provided with the result of the tests due out by the end of August, Dr Smith said.

The Marfell incident had shown up a weakness in Government policy over who should foot the bill for contaminated sites, the minister said.

“The problem here is that it seems Dow or its predecessor acted quite lawfully in that there was no restrictions on what could be dumped in the old landfill.”

It was difficult to ping companies who acted lawfully, Dr Smith said, however the Government was looking into the issue.

Dr Smith did not think there was grounds to investigate other former dumps in the area unless new information of concern came to light.

“I don’t think there is much more that the city and regional council can do beyond keeping a watching brief … at the moment it’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

15/07/2009 | KIRSTY JOHNSTON | Daily News | NEWS-2009-M06-15-001 | stuff.co.nz
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