Young calls for new toxic dump inquiry

11/06/2009

Another investigation is needed into possible chemical dumps across New Plymouth, MP Jonathan Young says.

The discovery of toxic agrichemicals at Marfell Park has raised concerns that other sites, previously tested and found negative for dioxins in 2001, might also contain buried drums.

Herbicide manufacturer Ivon Watkins-Dow, now Dow AgroSciences, has consistently denied allegations of secret dumps.

A Taranaki Regional Council investigation in 2001 found no evidence of agrichemicals at 31 suspected sites, including Marfell Park.

Mr Young, echoing earlier statements by Environment Minister Nick Smith, said the regional council needed to go back to those same sites and have another look.

“My concern is what’s underground, it’s not just a matter of run-off,” Mr Young said.

However, finding chemicals buried under such large areas of earth would be a serious problem.

“How do you find out over 10 acres what is there under two metres of earth, or six metres of earth if it’s a gully? Is there any way we can find out in any other way than just trial and error?”

If another investigation was needed, central government would support TRC financially, Mr Young said.

Media reports yesterday morning said Mr Smith had “promised” another look at the sites, but last night the minister appeared to be shying away from any definite decision.

“It’s too early to draw a conclusion about the correct next steps to take,” he said.

It was important to find where other chemicals had been dumped, but doing so was like finding a needle in a haystack, Mr Smith said.

If they could be reasonably found, any chemicals should “of course” be removed from the ground.

“I want to call on members of the public, former employees and all those involved in managing the plant to come forward,” he said.

Taranaki Regional Council director of environment quality Gary Bedford said before considering a second investigation, he needed to talk with the ministry and affected parties as to what it would achieve.

“I’m not saying we would refuse to do something. It is ratepayers’ money all the way,” he said. The 2001 investigation had cost $166,500, the most expensive of any council investigation except perhaps that of the Patea freezing works.

Mr Bedford was confident in the council’s testing and did not think any other sites would contain chemical waste.

“This site is infinitely different to what may be at other sites because we knew it was a landfill.” The council had only ever said it had found no evidence of agrichemicals at the sites tested, not denied chemical dumping had actually occurred, Mr Bedford said.

In 2001, the council had used a combination of soil tests, water tests, leachate tests and radar to find evidence of chemicals. It has continued to monitor each site for any environmental affects.

“Our priority must always be: Is there an environmental risk?” Mr Bedford said.

11/06/2009 | KIRSTY JOHNSTON | Daily News | stuff.co.nz | NEWS-2009-M06-11-001
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