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No evidence to back claims of toxic dumps

December 11th, 2011
[by David Armstrong]

Allegations that toxic materials had been dumped in at least two gravel pits near the Motueka River have been investigated by the community board and council and found to be unsubstantiated without supporting evidence.

The allegations were made in strongly worded comments at the October 11 meeting of the community board by the Motueka Residents Association representatives Dave Le Long and Arthur Walker, and by Fred Te Miha, kaitiaki of the Motueka River and a Director of Tiakina Te Taiao, about he toxic material being dumped at a pit off Douglas Road, as well as at another unnamed gravel pit. Read our full report here.

At the meeting Dave Le Long undertook to get an affidavit signed by a person who had seen what had gone into the pit. Dave indicated that waste oil drums, tyres, fridges and similar materials had been dumped. Arthur walker supplied photos and rushed glass to the Board.

Fred Te Miha requested to see all monitoring papers and data from the Council. A report of various meetings and discussions conducted between community board and council members, council staff and the complainants will be presented by David Ogilvie to the community board at its December meeting on Tuesday.

"I had been advised of the public concern and obtained a copy of the C J Industries resource consent," David wrote. "Council staff had said that monitoring was regularly carried out and there was no evidence that it as a toxic site. The Community Board acknowledged the seriousness of the claims and suggested they be formally presented to the District Council, once evidence (through the affidavit) was available.

On the day after the allegations were made, Fred Te Miha inspected the gravel pits of T J Johnston and C J Industries. "Terry Johnston was present and showed us all the reports that he had filed of Council monitoring," David reported. "The state of the Johnston pit was very good; that of C J Industries definitely not to the same standard. Fred however, seemed satisfied, although we noted the polystyrene blocks at the pit.

"Later, I visited the C J Industries office in Hau Road and spoke with Rod Markham and Des Corrie-Johnston re the matter. Their records were not as extensive as Terry Johnston’s. I also e-mailed the Council with details of the Board’s meeting and the inspections with Fred Te Miha."

On Monday 7 November TDC's Warren Galbraith, Cr Eileen Wilkins, Fred Te Miha, Dave Le Long, Arthur Walker and David Ogilvie met at the Motueka Office to discuss Warren's findings.

"Warren explained his monitoring programme and his responses to various complaints," David wrote. "A number of infringements and consequent abatement notices had been issued but no evidence of serious toxic materials or contamination. Monitoring of the water quality in the river and in local groundwater had indicated nothing of concern.

"Fred enquired whether continuous monitoring was possible. He expressed concern over hop vines being dumped and he had been informed of an oil seepage the previous day. Arthur mentioned household rubbish being dumped and his worry that a flood on the river would destroy the pits, show the backfill materials and have a serious effect.

"Dave pointed out that an affidavit was unlikely but he would ask the person concerned to get in touch with Warren. Warren said he would require any toxic materials to be removed once he was confident they were there. Dave expressed his earlier concern that the town’s water supply could be affected. Warren explained that tests by Cawthron and Council, which were ongoing, had revealed nothing. The water quality in the river and the groundwater was consistently very good."

On Monday 28 November, Warren Galbraith responded to David's email that he had not received any further information from Dave Le Long, despite two request. He had not heard from Fred Te Miha, whom he had tried to contact.

In summary, David reported that there has been no evidence presented of toxic materials being dumped at the sites mentioned, and that council’s monitoring and investigations have not indicated any contamination of the river or of the groundwater.

"The community board and the council regard as very serious anything which could impact on the health of the river or the groundwater which provides Motueka’s domestic water supply. The Council’s monitoring programme is not absolutely fool-proof but public suggestions of wrongful dumping and likely contamination must be supported with evidence."


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