6 Jul 2017

'It's like sandpaper in my eyes' - Quarry dust coats residents

8:55 pm on 6 July 2017

A Christchurch resident has pleaded with a full meeting of the city council to stop a quarry she says is coating her and her neighbours in harmful dust.

An aerial view of the Winstones quarry on Old West Coast Road, and the houses nearby.

An aerial view of the Winstones quarry on Old West Coast Road, and the houses nearby. Photo: Supplied

The Winstones Quarry on Old West Coast Road has been ordered to contain the dust it produces in extracting gravel for building projects.

Anna Youngman

Anna Youngman Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Today Anna Youngman told councillors this was not working and the quarrying needed to stop.

"I get very breathless, also outdoors, not only do I wear the mask, I have to put on protection over my eyes, they get so itchy and so runny, it's like sandpaper in my eyes, and this is Christchurch."

Given just five minutes to speak, Ms Youngman did her best to bring home for councillors what life was like for her and six neighbours who lived within 200 metres of one of the city's biggest and busiest gravel quarries.

She said the dust followed them inside and coated furniture and walls, but that the real danger came from the crystalline silica particles that were too small to see.

"They are so tiny that they get right in to the base of the lungs and because of their jagged edges they lodge in to the lung and make that area non-functional. Breathing in this dust can lead to very serious health issues, silicosis, which is similar to asbestosis, and a terrible death."

Ms Youngman said her doctor had advised her to move for the good of her health, but that this was not an option as nobody would want to buy their property as long as the dust remained a problem.

She pleaded with councillors to change planning rules that allowed the quarry to set up within 200 metres of homes.

"Why aren't you all listening to the experts that know better. In third world countries, Pakistan and india, 500 metres is the set back distance. The quarries are running riot, they've been cowboys for some time."

Outside the meeting, another resident, Annell McDonagh, said the independent commissioners who granted the quarry permission to operate so close to their homes needed better, more independent advice on the effects of the dust.

In an email, the Christchurch City Council said the quarry's resource consent required it to contain any dust within its boundaries.

Winstones said the area had been a quarry since the 1970s.

In a statement it said it was complying with its resource consent and had taken a number of steps to reduce dust.

The regional council directed RNZ News to its website, which detailed plans to test the dust coming from the quarry.

This would involve personal exposure monitors which it hoped to fit residents with next week to work out how much crystalline silica they were being exposed to.

It was also planning to monitor how much visible dust was coming from the quarry in the near future.

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