Potential hazardous waste may pollute area

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Erosion eats into Foreshore Rd at Colac Bay. Photo: Southland Express files

THE Colac Bay community is “annoyed and frustrated” the Southland District Council (SDC) seems to be sticking with its original plan not to reopen the Colac Foreshore Rd despite local opposition, Colac Bay Erosion Committee member Jeremy Caroll says.

The Colac Bay Erosion Committee is a group of local residents formed to prompt the SDC into taking action to stop the road collapsing into the sea.

The SDC will make a decision about the portion of the road closed because of erosion since 2015 at its meeting today (November 23).

Mr Caroll said the community’s wishes had not made any difference to the SDC.

The option being recommended to the SDC is to have the road permanently closed and to reinstate previous rock defences at a cost of $200,000.

Another option being tabled, at an estimated cost of $700,000, is to permanently realign Foreshore Rd inland through a former tip site next to the road.

Erosion Committee chairwoman Julie Guise said if the road eroded any further, buried waste from this disused tip could escape or seep into the sea.

The now-buried refuse tip was open from 1960 to 2000.

Residents are concerned the tip contains hazardous chemicals in herbicides banned in the late 1980s.

Environment Southland (ES) senior pollution prevention officer Leonie Grace said ES did not hold any information as to the type of products disposed of at the Colac Bay tip site.

SDC services and assets group manager Ian Marshall said all of the district’s old landfills were assessed about 15 years ago, but he was unable to produce a copy of the assessment report on the Colac Bay landfill in time for this article.

Colac Bay resident Stewart Dawson, who had lived in the area for 88 years, said he remembered farmers using large amounts of herbicides such as 245T to kill broom in the 1950s.

Mr Dawson believed many farmers would have dumped these chemicals at the tip when they became illegal to use.

“There’d be no question about that – the dump was the dump and that was where everything went.”

The University of Otago’s head of pharmacology and toxicology studies Professor Rhonda J Rosengren said 245T was a herbicide containing a chemical known as dioxin which was highly toxic and a highly persistent environmental pollutant.

If there was any 245T in the tip, the issue would be how much and how highly concentrated the 245T product was with dioxin, she said.

Mr Caroll said water sometimes ponded on the site’s surface.

“[Oraka Aparima] Runaka attempted to restore the wetland qualities of the site… but this has since been discontinued as the Runaka and others in the community have expressed concerns the wetland and landfill could become inundated [by the sea] if the ongoing coastal erosion continues unabated.”

Two other options being tabled at the meeting are to repair and reopen the road and defend it from the sea at a cost of $850,000, or to do nothing.

Whichever option the SDC selected for the road, the cost would be funded by money from the council’s roading budget with no likelihood of a New Zealand Transport Agency subsidy.

Mr Caroll said Ms Grace had informed him the SDC and ES now planned to jointly fund a new site assessment of the tip area to assess the risk to human health and the environment and she was in the process of getting a quote from a contaminated land consultant to undertake the assessment.

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