Dusty road impacts children’s health

    Southland District Council deputy mayor Ebel Kremer. PHOTO: LAURA SMITH

    A SOUTHLAND mother is fearing for her children’s health after a ban on a gravel road dust suppressant has left them sicker than ever.

    Mimihau resident Casey Caldwell said she could not open her windows at her property on Woods Rd, near Wyndham.

    The dust created from heavy vehicles travelling down the gravel road she and her family lived 15 metres from had resulted in serious concerns being raised by a doctor for the respiratory health of her three children under three.

    The issue was brought to the table at a Southland District Council (SDC) services and assets committee meeting this week where she, among others, pleaded for a solution during the public forum.

    Mrs Caldwell said the constant plume of dust became an issue about three years ago, when Environment Southland’s (ES) regulations regarding dust suppression changed, and applying oil to gravel roads was no longer allowed without a resource consent.

    She was unable to gain one, and as a result, heavy vehicles on the road all year round, and at times, every quarter of an hour, had become “unbearable”.

    “You can dust your house a day later and it’s like it hasn’t been dusted in a year, it’s chronic.”

    Despite spending $7000 on fencing, the dust clouds were so big there was no way of keeping them out, she said.

    “You’ve got two wee babies trying to sleep in 30 degree heat in your house and you just can’t get the airflow through.”

    Her mother, Carolynn Robertson, who lived on the same street, said the level of dust had quadrupled over the past few years and had made life “extremely dangerous” for those living there.

    “The dust gets into everything from drinking water to bedding to toys.

    “As they [her grandchildren] venture outside to play and a vehicle goes down the road, dust sends them into coughing fits and their eyes red and running.”

    The Caldwell family could no longer drink the rain water which had been the water supply for the property since 1954.

    Neighbours a few doors down, who suffered from bronchial conditions and asthma, had to live with their drapes and windows closed constantly, she said.

    “It has gone beyond a joke with the introduction of a second rock road that works in conjunction with a family farm in Glenham.”

    From rock trucks to gravel, stock, fertiliser and more, there was a constant flow of vehicles from farms and quarries.

    While there were a couple of alternative routes, some truck drivers had completely disregarded them.

    Mrs Robertson acknowledged times had changed and oiling was no longer considered environmentally friendly, however, there needed to be an alternative solution.

    When she approached ES, staff told her there was a product but it costed $1600 per 100 metres, only lasted six weeks and could be washed away in the rain.

    “That could happen in the first week so I, for one, am not prepared to throw away money like that,” she said.

    Mataura resident Brian Carnie, who lived with his family of five on Oakland Rd, two with asthma, felt the pain of the residents on Woods Rd.

    He too was struggling with the impact of heavy vehicles creating dust.

    As a solution, he suggested OTTOSEAL, a sealant used on several gravel roads across the Southland District.

    Councillor Ebel Kremer said he could sympathise with the submitters having raised a family on a gravel road property, and vouched for the sustainability of OTTOSEAL.

    Group manager services and assets Matt Russell said SDC and ES had “certainly noticed” the issue had become a lot more significant since oiling became illegal.

    He assured the submitters a solution was being looked at and budget for an alternative sealant had been proposed to be included in the Long Term Plan 2021-2031, post-July 1.

    Council staff would be working with submitters on their individual situations to rectify the problem soon, he said.