Asbestos dumping under investigation

Authorities are investigating the illegal dumping of asbestos in the Kowai riverbed in Hurunui.

The pile of asbestos, estimated to weigh around 240 kilograms, was discovered at the end of Terrace Road at Leithfield. The material has now been removed and safely disposed of.

Hurunui District Council Regulatory Committee Chairman, Ross Little, says the find is disturbing and where the offenders can be identified, the appropriate penalties will be applied.

“While it may be tempting to think of the nearest river-bed, bush, beach or forest as “no-mans’ land”, it is not, and nobody has the right to destroy other peoples’ safety and enjoyment of public land, or the environment.

“Too many people dump rubbish without thinking, and we want to deal with this. The penalties are substantial, and offenders should take note.”

The Kowai river bed is frequently visited by both children and animals and Environmental Manager, Judith Batchelor, says it beggars belief someone would leave such a dangerous material lying around for them to potentially come in contact with.

“Asbestos is one of the most dangerous building materials known to man. Just imagine if a child had picked this up and started playing with it, inhaling the particles in the process.

“It is bad enough for anyone to treat our backyard as a de-facto tip, but even worse as it turns out in this case the material discarded is not only unsightly, but downright dangerous”

The discarded material, believed to be ‘white asbestos’, was commonly used in outbuildings, warehouses, garages, and as flat sheets in ceilings, walls and floors, during construction in New Zealand up until 20 years ago, but has since been banned in dozens of countries.

While the source of asbestos cement board is being investigated, Environment Canterbury Director Resource Management, Kim Drummond says the illegal disposal of demolition waste in North Canterbury is a growing problem following the Canterbury earthquakes.

"We are investigating an increase in demolition waste and earthquake debris being trucked out of the city and dumped in more remote areas, and we are looking at laying charges under the Resource Management Act. Anybody who sees this type of activity should contact the Environment Canterbury Pollution Hotline on 0800 765 588, or the Hurunui District Council. All calls are confidential. We need to work together to resolve this problem."

He says the illegal disposal of quake debris not only poses an extreme risk to the environment, but is also unnecessary: "There are plenty of places to dispose of waste correctly; people just need to check with their local authority for the information on designated disposal points. People burning waste are simply making the problem worse."

In this case in Hurunui, the site where the asbestos was dumped flooded soon afterwards. If not for the prompt actions of the Pollution Hotline team and a local contractor it would have spread downstream and all over the river bed, making clean-up almost impossible, says Kim Drummond.

The maximum penalty for the illegal dumping of rubbish is two years jail and or a $300 thousand dollar fine.

Authorities estimate it would have cost no more than $50.00 to have appropriately and safely disposed of the dumped material.

For further information contact:

Judith Batchelor

Environmental Services Manager

Hurunui District Council

P: 03 314 0102

or

Kim Drummond

Director Resource Management

Environment Canterbury

P: 027497 8366