8 Jun 2016

Toxic Timaru business needs clean-up

8:17 pm on 8 June 2016

About 90,000 litres of toxic chemicals will be removed from a Timaru building now that the owner of a chrome plating business has agreed to shut it down.

A vat of acid caught fire at the business, Concours Electroplating, in February last year, causing the evacuation of hundreds of people.

After the fire last year, the Timaru District Council, WorkSafe and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) issued notices asking the owner to identify the chemicals and store them more safely.

In a statement on behalf of all the agencies involved, WorkSafe chief executive Gordon MacDonald said, after more than a year of inaction, progress had finally been made.

"WorkSafe, EPA, and the Timaru District Council have been working together to achieve compliance with health and safety and hazardous substances legislation by the owner of Concours.

"[The owner] has failed to meet his obligations under both sets of legislation and does not have the financial resources to bring the property into compliance," Mr MacDonald said.

The estimated cost of removing the chemicals was $750,000.

The agencies had negotiated an agreement with the owner that he would quit the property so an application could be made to the government's Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund.

The company had been operating since 2014. Before that, it was known as Chrome Platers Limited, which was registered as a company in 1961.

The Canterbury Regional Council was preparing the application and expected to deliver it to the Environment Minister by the end of the month.

Mr MacDonald said the containers of chemicals had been tested to establish their contents and toxicity.

"There is an inventory of approximately 90,000 litres on site, WorkSafe is monitoring the site on a weekly basis to ensure any risks at the property are appropriately managed while the decision is being made on funding the removal."

WorkSafe said, if the application was approved, the chemicals would be removed from the site by the end of August and the building sold.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the site was ranked as more important than other sites.

"Being in an urban environment, the risks are more immediate, so it trumps work being done on other sites where there is not such an immediate risk."