1 Feb 2018

Toxic foam feared linked to illnesses

8:36 pm on 1 February 2018

Residents around Ōhakea Airbase fear toxic fire-fighting foam, which has contaminated water and soil, is to blame for health problems and sick animals, says the mayor.

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Photo: 123RF

The Defence Force has admitted chemicals used in firefighting foam before 2002 have leached into nearby soil and water at bases in Ōhakea, and Woodbourne in Marlborough, contaminating seven properties including five in Manawatū.

Manawatū mayor Helen Worboys has visited residents, and said they were frustrated by "inconsistent and unclear" information.

"These people, many of whom have lived here for generations, are genuinely worried about their future and their farms.

"I am being told about headaches and illness in people. About poor-performing animals that seem to recover when not on the affected land."

Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney said the regional council had begun its own investigation into the contamination under the Resouce Management Act.

He said he could not comment on the likely outcome, but conceded it could lead to prosecution of the Defence Force.

The two local councils were concerned about the lack of information.

"We're strongly encouraging government to work speedily and proactively with affected individuals and communities."

"The contamination was not only a risk to public health but could also have 'long term social-economic impacts'," he said.

Since learning of the problem in December, the council had been providing technical information on ground water and surface water to the Defence Force and the Ministry for the Environment.

"However, we still don't know the full scope of the contamination and what the long term impact may be.

"I have put a call through to the Minister of Defence today to raise our concerns, and mayor Worboys has done the same with the Minister for the Environment."

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