As if we have not all been through enough, I am writing to urge other residents of Mt Pleasant to check your property against the Ecan list for contaminated land, just in case the letter has not yet arrived in your letter box. See http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/10036883/Underground-menace-for-property-owners and click the link to check your address. Apparently our piece of paradise which was zoned residential A in the 1962 district plan was also permitted for market gardens and farming which has now seen the original maps and aerial photographs used to identify farm buildings and glass houses. We are now deemed guilty until proven innocent of living on potentially contaminated land which will no doubt have an impact on land values. If you wish to disturb any land for building remedial work you may have to get resource consent, depending on the amount of disturbance. Also if you are considering renting or selling your house or land you must declare that your land is on the LLUR Listed Land Use register as a potential HAIL (Hazardous Activities and Industries List) site. To learn more register your interest in attending the last remaining public meeting on this subject – at Cashmere High School on Tuesday 10 June – Meetings 7pm to 9pm. We attended last week Gloucester St East school and the meeting was barely attended as so few people had received letters. Testing for contamination is the responsibility of the property owner. In checking for the details on our own property we have identified that this affects multiple properties around us and can only guess that there may well be many more.
I have also accessed the old aerial photo’s of our site and surrounds, and downloaded the CCC District Plan for 1 April 1962 and maps which would have been used by Ecan in their site evaluation see CCC website http://www.ccc.govt.nz/thecouncil/policiesreportsstrategies/districtplanning/cityplan/historicalplanning/index.aspx The docs here would be very useful for other residents in the same situation.
Shirley’s precis of the meeting she attended on Wednesday 28th May at Gloucester St East School
Presenter: Ken Taylor – ECAN
At the meeting Ken Taylor explained why they were undertaking the process of identification of potentially contaminated land, i.e. a legal requirement set by Ministry of the Environment for all LTA’ s throughout NZ to identify and notify past land use. There are 55 different land uses on the HAIL list (Hazardous Activities and Industries List).
Identification of land as being potentially contaminated has been made from old maps and aerial photographs. Just because land has a past use it is not necessarily contaminated, however, the onus is on the land owner to prove that their land is not contaminated not vice versa. The only way to be certain is to get land tested through an approved specialist agency and at the meeting the cost was muted to be anywhere between $5000 and $20,000 for tests that would prove land not to be contaminated and therefore have the listing on the LLUR noted as verified Non-Hail. Although ECan have negotiated testing of up to two soil samples through Hills Laboratories on a self test basis for $350 – this is for peace of mind only and not accepted as a scientific test. When asked why Ecan had not gone on to conduct tests on land before putting notices in the paper, Ken Taylor responded hat there was no money to conduct these tests available and re-iterated that it was the responsibility of the current land owner even though they were unaware of and had not caused contamination.
Another reason muted for bringing this to the fore now is EQ repairs, as these are disturbing the soil, in relation to major earthworks, foundation and potentially drive repairs etc. In this instance Ecan said people affected should notify their insurer and or EQC to see if they could get them to pay for testing. (In light of the battles already occurring around insurance I do not hold out a great deal of hope on that front.) However, you are required to notify builders, and insurers and a resource consent may well be required dependent on any contamination found and the amount of disturbance of the soil.
When questioned on if being listed on the LLUR would be likely to affect land values, Ken Taylor responded yes this will affect land values, but valuer’s have said that this would diminish over time.
The information provided also stated that it was a requirement for land/ property owners renting or attempting to sell their house to notify prospective tenants/ purchasers that the property is on the LLUR.
Dr Allister Humphreys
This presentation focussed on issues and potential contaminants on horticultural land, which would be the reason for properties on Mt Pleasant being identified. He stated that the concern was around Orchards and Market Gardens pre 1975 with regard to chemicals used as pesticides. Of particular concern were Arsenic – which does not degrade over time, Lead which does not degrade over time and DDT/DDE and DDD = organochlorines which if bound by copper can last/ be present for decades.
Also of concern were Copper and Zinc which has been used 1950 to present day.
Arsenic was used in Pesticides, Fungicides, wood preservatives and paint.
Alistair Humphreys advised people to talk to neighbours, long term, older residents who might know what the area was used for/ land use before it became residential. He said that Ecan can advise what to test for.
When asked what the long term effects of exposure to these chemicals might be, he said people should only go to their GP if they became ill, that there was no money available in the health system to screen people for possible exposure. This particularly upset people in the audience with young children as he went on to say that children were especially susceptible.
He suggested obtaining soil tests for land for peace of mind and pointed people to the CPH website http://www.cph.co.nz/About-Us/HAIL.asp which has information on precautions to take for contaminated land.
Dr Sally Gaw – Environmental Chemist
Dr Gaw talked about orchards and organochlorine pesticides. She said how much was in the soil depended on what happened on the land/ land use and how long ago. Of major concern to health was soil on home grown crops, soil ingestion on skin/ through inhalation, these were the different pathways of exposure.
Good hygeine/ general precautions would mitigate the risk.
If you want to grow vegetables, use raised beds with topsoil bought in. The top 10cm/ 6 inches of the soil was where contaminants would reside.
Following these three presentations the meeting was opened to questions from the floor.
Why did the City Council and Ecan allow building permits to be issued on contaminated land, this has huge consequences?
Ecan responded that they have been tasked to identify contaminated land, and that this info has only been gathered in the last year.
CCC responded that they are only interested in mitigating the risks on contaminated land, that they do not cross reference resource consents to info on the LLUR or that held by Ecan.
Why release this list on such unreliable evidence – i.e. old photo’s?
That and old maps was best evidence, way to identify potential contaminated sites. Info available on ECAN website for people to access.
How safe is it to eat vegetables, what about purchasing veggies from Marshlands if this area is contaminated?
Produce is safe, most people buy their vegetables from more than one source, only 25% eaten off of one site, unless you grow all of your own vegetables.
How can I find out more about my land, what it was used for?
Check old records, city council ownership and history of land. Lim’s, etc
If I test my land and it is contaminated how much would it cost to remediate?
CCC representative responded that they had been required to remediate land at a property in 2007, it was a 700sqm site. They took away the top soil – top 6 inches, not under foundations or removing special trees, only removal of soil and transporting/ disposing of soil – this cost $75,000 in 2007.
If I do that what guarantee is there with buying in soil, will it be screened?
For new subdivisions soil is tested. No guarantee that any soil you buy in will be screened and OK
So I could spend all that money and just end up with the same problem?
In checking for the details on our own property we have identified that this affects multiple properties around us and can only guess that there may well be many more. Please pass this information on as you see fit and likewise if you hear/ know of anyone with further information on historic land use in Mt Pleasant please also share this for the benefit of all.
Southern Response approach to contaminated land
Peter Rose from Southern Response advised members of MPCC that: in respect of contaminated land SR will cover the cost of ground testing and cover the cost of ground disturbance and dumping in order to re-instate a dwelling. This cover does not extend to remediating the land.
Is your backyard safe?
Environment Canterbury has identified 11,000 properties which may host toxic chemicals.
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