Fears Soil Contamination In Thames Subdivision Moanataiari Could Be Harmful

Posted by Thames Coromandel District Council on 23/11/2011

In October and November 2011, the Waikato Regional Council conducted soil tests at the Moanataiari subdivision in Thames to find out if the soil was contaminated.

The testing occurred because of the subdivisions known history as reclaimed land using burden and tailings from local mines in the early to mid-twentieth Century.

Preliminary results back from the tests indicate that there are elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the soil and sub straights. The arsenic is not an introduced chemical in the mining process, but a naturally occurring trace element often found alongside other minerals and elements like gold.

MP Nick Smith Says Further Moanataiari Soil Testing A Priority - 22/11/2011

The Government has a contestable fund that the Waikato Regional Council and Thames-Coromandel District Council can apply to for further testing of contaminants at the Moanataiari subdivision in Thames, Environment Minister Nick Smith says.

"The Government shares the concerns of residents and the local Thames community at the levels of arsenic recorded in soil samples at Moanataiari," said Dr Smith.

"I urge residents to heed the precautionary advice of the councils and health authorities to protect their health while more detailed testing is undertaken and a long-term plan implemented to address the contamination."

Moanataiari is built on land reclaimed from the Firth of Thames. The area was filled with mine tailings, mine waste, and clean fill subdivided in the 1960s and houses built in the 1970s.

"Undertaking a subdivision in this way would be unacceptable today," Dr Smith said.

"In May this year I announced a new National Environmental Standard for situations like Moanataiari. The standard applies to proposed developments on reclaimed land and land that has been used for certain activities or industries. If the land is found to be contaminated, steps must be taken to cleanse the soil or contain the contamination, to make it safe for human use before development.

"The Government has a constructive work programme with the Green Party on addressing contaminated sites. We have developed a comprehensive clean-up of the Tui Mine at Te Aroha launched in October. We are committed to working with the Thames-Coromandel District Council and the Waikato Regional Council on developing a clean-up plan for the Moanataiari community once we know the extent and scale of the contamination.

"The residents of Moanataiari need certainty and it is important that testing gets underway as soon as practicable. The Ministry for the Environment will work closely with the Waikato Regional Council and the Thames-Coromandel District Council to ensure their funding application is completed and determined urgently."

Moanataiari Residents Meeting A Good First Step: Residents Told The Public Health Risk Is Very Low For Most Residents 22/11/2011

Over three hundred residents, ratepayers and stakeholders attended the Moanataiari meeting this evening, hosted by the Thames-Coromandel District Council.

Mayor Glenn Leach said that the meeting was a good first start on the journey towards making things right for the Moanataiari community.

"I am heartened by the attitude and resilience of the community; it was a very balanced, honest and transparent meeting with all the officials fronting and answering as best they could the tough questions. A lot is unknown at this stage, but we have a pathway forward and that starts with getting funding sorted to start the next round of testing so we can work out what needs to happen for each property".

"We'll also put on the website the audio files from this evening, so people can listen again to the experts, as well as write up the new questions and answers".

Waikato District Health Board Public Health Officer, Del Hood, reiterated at the meeting that the risks for most people are very low. The most risk is for young children who repeatedly eat soil and very simple things can easily reduce the exposure.

The Council has also announced a community forum to be held every Thursday at 3.30pm at the Moanataiari School, where the local community can gather in an informal session and get updates and answers from the various agencies involved in the project.

Public Meeting Power Point Presentation                Soil Test Results