Three sites prioritised for cleanup

Three contaminated sites in the Wellington region have been prioritised for cleanup by the Ministry for the Environment.

The old Miramar gasworks, Te Mome Stream in Petone and the Masterton gasworks are among sites identified as high priority for government funding in a new list issued by the ministry. It said carcinogenic compounds, heavy metals, lead and cyanide had been found at the sites.

As the contamination is historic and the owners cannot be pursued, Greater Wellington Regional Council will work with the Government to get money to clean up the sites.

Council environment management general manager Nigel Corry said the areas presented little risk to the public unless there was a change to the way the land was used.

"Across the country there's thousands of these sites . . . in most cases it's not a risk. If somebody wanted to bulldoze that site, then you'll be looking at it."

The council's land use register showed the Gasworks restaurant was on a different site from the original plant, he said. After the gasworks were demolished in 1972, the land was subdivided for industrial developments and sold to private buyers.

"Part of the problem with [these] sites is there's no company in existence. It's very difficult to find where the responsibility lies - it's not like a contemporary exercise where you can show that they were responsible," Corry said.

The ministry said it appeared the decommissioned Exide battery factory was the main source of contamination of Te Mome Stream. The plant, which closed in 2012, was convicted twice for breaching emission standards.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said the priority list would help councils and the Government work together effectively.

"As a result of past activities and industries that used hazardous substances, we have a legacy of contaminated sites that have, or could have, significant adverse effects on people's health and the environment. It is important that this historic contamination is cleaned up responsibly."

The cost to clean up the Masterton site was estimated at $54,000, while costings for the Miramar and Te Mome sites had yet to be confirmed.

The council can apply for government funding for up to 50 per cent of the cost.

The other contaminated priority sites are: Prohibition Mine, West Coast; Alexander Mine, West Coast; Kopeopeo Canal, Whakatane; Onehunga Aquifer, Auckland; Rotowaro Carbonisation Plan, Waikato; Rudolf Steiner School, Christchurch; and Calwell Slipway, Nelson.

The Dominion Post