30 Nov 2012

Residents on arsenic-tainted soil urged to wash veges

6:18 am on 30 November 2012

Authorities are divided over what to do about arsenic-contaminated land in Thames, following a report finding the risk to human health is low.

More than 1100 people living in the Moanataiari subdivision were told last year that the soil had 17 times the recommended level of arsenic, but last week they were told that it was still safe.

Thames' mayor says soil replacement isn't needed, but the Ministry for the Environment and Thames Coromandel Regional Council want the report peer reviewed before they agree.

A retiree who lives in Moanataiari, Gordon Rogers, says he's comfortable with the report's findings and residents just need to be educated about how to keep safe.

Meanwhile the Thames-Coromandel council says residents at an arsenic-contaminated subdivision should wash veges grown in their gardens even though the health risk is "very minor".

There are about 200 properties in the suburb of Moanataiari, which was found to be contaminated last year when contractors dug up soil at a local school.

The council says the affected area only poses an average additional health risk of 0.00136%.

It says digging up and dumping the soil is unnecessary and could make the situation worse by disturbing contaminants.

Instead, the council is recommending an awareness programme about safe soil, and encouraging homeowners to wash their hands and vegetables.

It also recommends helping residents to replace gardens in the worst-affected areas.

Thames Mayor Glen Leach says that a specialist Australian company brought in to do a risk assessment of the contaminated site, have found the risk can be managed without major upheaval to the residents.

But there is disagreement over the health risks, and the council is seeking health ministry advice ahead of the meeting about the matter next week.