31 July 2009

Commissioner pleased with findings of Mapua site report

"I welcome the thorough Site Auditor report of Mapua. It gives me confidence that the once contaminated site can now be used by local residents," the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment commented today on the release of the independent report, Audit of the remediation of the former Fruitgrowers Chemical Company site, Mapua.

The audit report finds that following the clean-up of the site, the soils are suitable for the intended land uses, subject to reasonable site management. "This is good news for the people of Mapua and the wider Tasman District," said the Commissioner, Dr Wright.

"Picking up on some of my concerns about the quality of the groundwater, the Site Auditor has found that more groundwater wells and monitoring are needed," noted the Commissioner. "This is the only way to know if the water quality of the surrounding estuary is at risk. The need for more groundwater monitoring was clear from the original consents and reflects the findings of two subsequent reports in 2007."

"I trust that the Minister for the Environment will ensure that this recommended groundwater monitoring programme goes ahead, and that the appropriate consents are obtained if there is significant, ongoing discharge of contaminants to the estuary," said Dr Wright.

The Site Auditor also made a number of minor recommendations for more laboratory analysis of soil and water samples and for the ongoing management of the site. These are not unusual requirements for a major site clean-up in a sensitive location such as Mapua.

The report also reinforces some of the Commissioner's concerns about how the clean-up was managed. It should be noted that the Site Auditor's report was never intended to address some of the Commissioner's other concerns, like air quality. Health related concerns around the site at Mapua will be covered by the Ministry of Health, in their anticipated report.

For copies of the Commissioner's report Investigation into the remediation of the contaminated site at Mapua visit: www.pce.parliament.nz or phone 04 471 1669 to request a hard-copy.

Ends

Background

Following complaints of poor environmental management during the clean-up of a contaminated site at Mapua, near Nelson, an investigation was begun in late 2006. Large volumes of a wide range of agricultural chemicals had been manufactured and stored at the site over several decades. The treatment process used did successfully treat the soil but in doing so, may have released some contaminants. The main environmental concerns of the complainants were the leaching of contaminated soil from the site into the groundwater and the estuary which was close to the site.

The Commissioner's report Investigation into the remediation of the contaminated site at Mapua, determined how well the remediation of the Mapua contaminated site had been managed by the Ministry for the Environment and Tasman District Council, and looked at lessons learnt that could be used in future clean-ups of contaminated land around New Zealand.

Eight recommendations were made to the Minister for the Environment, the Ministry for the Environment, Tasman District Council and the Site Auditor, addressing various concerns including several recommendations for public agencies to implement, in order to improve management of other contaminated sites.

The report was presented to the House of Representatives in July 2008.