On October 12, complying with advice from the Ombudsman, who supported Information Act requests by BayBuzz and the DomPost, the HB Regional Council released its list of potentially contaminated sites around the Bay.

In recent months, HBRC scrubbed its original HAIL list of 3,102 sites, appropriately eliminating a host of sites for reasons ranging from bad addresses to having confirmed that no hazardous substances had in fact been on the sites, producing a current, more accurate list of 1,494 sites. You can download that list here.

The updated list includes numerous sites owned by local Councils — 25 sites in CHB, 23 sites in Hastings, 36 sites in Napier, and 8 sites in Wairoa. These range from landfills (the largest category) to garages to camping grounds. You can download that list here.

The Council noted that in recent years it has completed investigations and remediation work on four sites that were originally deemed the most hazardous:

  1. Waitane ex timber treatment site, Dunlop Road, Onekawa;
  2. Napier Gas Works, Sale Street, Napier;
  3. Hastings Gas Works, Karamu Road South, Hastings;
  4. Roys Hill closed landfill, State Highway 50, Hastings.”

The BayBuzz information request asked for a ranking of current sites deemed most problematic. In its October 12 letter to BayBuzz, the HBRC identified thirteen sites which Council considers its priority sites through the 2010 financial year:

  1. Ex timber treatment site, Mitchell Street, Wairoa; categorised as ”partly investigated”; further sampling being carried out
  2. Ex timber treatment site, Waikoau; categorised as “managed for commercial/industrial land use”
  3. Ex timber treatment site, Bridge Street, Onga Onga; categorised as “remediated to commercial/industrial guidelines”
  4. Ex timber treatment site, Tamumu Road, Waipawa; categorised as” hazardous substances at or below background levels”
  5. Ex timber treatment site, Herrick Street, Onga Onga; categorised as “partly investigated”; further sampling being carried out
  6. Ex timber treatment site, Carroll Street, Wairoa; categorised as “hazardous substances acceptable for commercial/industrial land use”
  7. Fire damaged site involving oil, Omahu Road, Hastings;categorised as “remediated for commercial/industrial land use”
  8. Underground fuel storage tanks, Guppy Road, Taradale; categorised as “hazardous substances acceptable for commercial/industrial land use”
  9. Underground fuel storage tanks, Takapau Road, Waipukurau; categorised as “hazardous substances acceptable for commercial/industrial land use”
  10. Ex timber treatment plant, Patoka, Napier; categorised as “partly investigated”; sampling to be carried out
  11. Ex timber treatment site, cnr Takapau and Hatuma Roads, Waipukurau; categorised as “partly investigated”; sampling to be carried out
  12. Possible ex timber treatment site, Cook Street, Waipukurau; categorised as “partly investigated”; sampling to be carried out
  13. Ex timber treatment site, Takapau Road, Waipukurau; categorised as “partly investigated”; sampling to be carried out.

Finally, responding to our question regarding how HBRC would proceed with future investigation and mitigation efforts, the Council said:

“The LTCCP of HBRC provides a budget of just under $300k for contaminated sites investigations and agrichemical collection over the next 3 years and will then be subject to an LTCCP review. The following work plan for the next 3 years is as follows in regard to the HAIL list:

  • Continue to update the Selected Land Use Register;
  • Carry out verification of HAIL sites.

In prioritising the sites, for which only the potential to contaminate exists, priority will be assigned to those types of sites where hazardous substances may be stored or used outside of the buildings and where the industrial site is not sealed. An example of this type of site is car wreckers/dismantling yards.”

It would appear that the Regional Council is proceeding, finally, with appropriate vigour to deal with potentially contaminated urban/industrial sites.

However, we’ll note again some concerns we expressed when the ombudsman’s favourable decision was first announced:

First of all, there is the fundamental question of what HBRC does not know. Virtually none of this data relates to farmed land, thanks to Federated Farmers opposition back when the HAIL list was first compiled. So, if you are worried about farms, orchards, vineyards etc where chemical use might have been intensive in the past, too bad! There is no information in the HAIL list pertaining to farm tips, fuel storage on farms, sheep dips, pesticides used in orchards, and so forth. In fact, there could be many more dangerous sites in Hawke’s Bay.

The implication? As agricultural lands (e.g., Heretaunga Plains orchards) are converted into sports parks or sub-divided for residential use, Ministry of Environment regulations require that the soils be tested for contaminants, and remediated before passing into other use. This process is overseen by the territorial authorities – e.g., the Hastings and Napier Councils. How diligently they perform this oversight is an open question we will pursue!

Second, even with respect to industrial sites, HBRC jurisdiction reaches only to whether a site might be discharging a dangerous substance into the air or water. The mere presence of such material on a site, or in the soil, is not necessarily of concern to HBRC. In the former case, ERMA is the agency charged with maintaining a register of hazardous materials on work sites and ensuring that they are properly managed. Unless ERMA were to inform the Regional Council that a site might be problematic (or worth monitoring), there is no way HBRC would know of any potential discharge. A classic Catch-22.

Third, what is considered risky or hazardous in the first place? Only now is the Ministry for the Environment developing a definitive classification of hazardous materials to guide local monitoring and policing efforts.

BayBuzz will monitor the Regional Council’s work on priority sites, as well as developments regarding these additional concerns.

Tom Belford

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