Toxic find appals residents

10/06/2009

Campaigner urges action to safeguard children 

ROBERT CHARLES CONCERNED: Charmaine Batt and son Josiah Warbrick are shocked that the Marfell Park site was once used as a dumping ground for toxic chemicals.

ROBERT CHARLES.  CONCERNED: Charmaine Batt and son Josiah Warbrick are shocked that the Marfell Park site was once used as a dumping ground for toxic chemicals.

Marfell residents are horrified that their children’s playground was once used as a chemical dumping ground.

Many want to ban their children from playing at Marfell Park but don’t know where else to send them.

Stormwater works last month uncovered two drums containing toxic chemicals at the park and seven more partial drums have been uncovered since.

The chemicals found were tetrachlorophenol and tetrachlorobenzene which contain cancer-causing dioxins and were used in the manufacture of herbicides at the Ivon Watkins-Dow chemical plant during the 1960s and 1970s.

Neighbouring residents with children were yesterday especially concerned about the find, saying they knew the park had once been a landfill, but were unaware it was also a chemical dump.

Former Banks St resident Noel Scouller, 72, said his four children used to play in the dump before it was closed over.

All of them, including Mr Scouller himself, have suffered illnesses which he said came from living next to the dump or near the former Ivon Watkins-Dow plant.

“I’m just hanging in hoping that one day someone will be answerable and say sorry. I don’t want the money, I just know in my own heart that dioxin is the cause,” Mr Scouller said.

Mother-of-three Gloria Bristone said she hadn’t thought about letting her kids play on the old dump site before, but it explained why their grazes and cuts took longer to heal.

“A couple of days after the kids go there they get a lot of sores, kind of break out in a rash,” she said.

“The sores don’t heal as fast as they should do our oldest has been on medication for three months and it’s only just gone away.

“The doctor didn’t know what it was.”

Across the road, Charmaine Batt, whose nine-year-old daughter regularly plays at the park and adjacent BMX track, said she no longer wanted her children to go there.

“But I don’t know where else they’ll go. I’ll have to have a big think about it,” Ms Batt said.

Dioxin campaigner Andrew Gibbs said yesterday the levels of dioxin found in Marfell were the highest-ever detected in New Zealand.

The Taranaki Regional Council confirmed it had found concentrations of dioxin in the buried drums as high as three parts per million.

“It’s the highest level that I know of. That’s hot,” Mr Gibbs said.

Community leaders must now take urgent action to close off the area to safeguard children and others until the area is made safe, he said.

New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young said it was unacceptable for a playground to contain such contaminants and he was seeking an immediate briefing from the Taranaki Regional Council and the Ministry of Environment on the matter.

“The issue of past disposal of toxic waste is catching up with us.

“We must ensure our environment is appropriately cared for, so people and in this case, children, are not put at risk.”

Mr Gibbs also said anyone from the Marfell area who might have been exposed should now be taken into the health support programme put in place for Paritutu residents.

“I’ve talked to kids that used to play in the dump. To cover it over showed reckless disregard for the community. It wouldn’t have happened in Remuera,” he said.

However, Taranaki DHB medical officer of health Dr Penny Hutchinson said yesterday the public health unit would not be taking any action because the TRC had informed them the chemicals were not a public health risk.

TRC director of environment quality Gary Bedford said the site was safe the soil had been removed, extra samples had been taken to ensure there were no environmental affects and the site would continue to be monitored.

10/06/2009 | KIRSTY JOHNSTON Taranaki Daily News | NEWS-2009-M06-10-001 | stuff.co.nz
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