Valley dust tested for 'miner's lung'

The Marlborough District Council is to contract crown research institute GNS to test the dust kicked up from roads in the Waikakaho Valley to see if it could cause "miner's lung" in residents.

The council's assets and services committee yesterday approved a proposal to test the dust kicked up by forestry trucks on unsealed roads in the valley for particulates and breathable silicates that might be bad for people's health.

It was possible that people breathing in dust that had high particles or silicates could develop silicosis or "miner's lung".

Council assets and service manager Mark Wheeler said the work was being partly paid for by GNS, as it was a national issue it was interested in, but a decision needed to be made as it was late in the summer and the conditions on the road might not enable a proper assessment.

The New Zealand Transport Agency would also pay part of the bill, leaving the council to fund about $30,000 of it.

The committee put on hold any decisions on sealing the Waikakaho Valley Rd as the residents had not been able to meet to discuss options before the council meeting.

Councillor Geoff Evans asked that councillors re-visit that after a residents' meeting. That would help them decide whether to get 2.5km of the unsealed road treated with an "Otta seal" which was cheaper but not as long-lasting or an asphalt seal which was long-lasting but much more expensive.

The dust on the road kicked up by forestry trucks has been kept down by a water truck, twice daily, at council expense.

Mr Wheeler said the residents might initially want an asphalt seal but when they saw the figures for that, he expected they would want to look at other options.

It was expected Mr Wheeler, Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman, Mr Evans and other ward councillors Cynthia Brooks and Peter Jerram might attend the residents meeting.

Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin said the delay meant that any sealing would have to be done late in the year, during October or November because it couldn't be laid in the wet.