Official action on abandoned dump queried
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
An abandoned demolition dump possibly riddled with asbestos has raised questions over whether authorities are on top of disposal issues in Christchurch.
The dump, said to contain up to 30,000 tonnes of rubble, is in a huge KiwiRail warehouse in Cass St, Sydenham. It was run by Skelly Holdings, whose director, Englishman Chris Skelly, left the country in late April to avoid being deported.
The company then went into liquidation, owing about $2 million, leaving KiwiRail to organise the disposal of the rubble at a cost of between $3m and $5m.
KiwiRail property manager Neil Buchanan was asked by The Press whether the taxpayer-owned company had tested the material and what the results were.
He said: "We suspect that some of the material inside the shed may include asbestos. This is based on uninformed opinion.
"We will be in a better position to confirm the presence of asbestos when we start to sort the material once we decide on a disposal method.
"Because the presence of asbestos has not been confirmed, we have not informed any authority. We are still seeking information about other disposal options for consideration."
Industry sources say the pile almost certainly contains asbestos because the site was uncontrolled.
The contractors had every motivation to get rid of material they might struggle to get into other landfills, they said.
Asbestos-contaminated material must be dumped at a special site at the Kate Valley landfill in North Canterbury and costs about three times as much to dump as ordinary demolition rubble.
Spotters at the Burwood Resource Recovery Park, operated by Transpacific Waste Management, check truckloads before and after dumping.
The company also regularly tests samples from the pile and from the approach road.
However, none of the authorities appears to have tested the Skelly dump, despite warnings, or assessed the health hazard.
A Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) spokeswoman said demolition contractors were responsible for scoping buildings for asbestos.
If a hazard was detected, contractors were obliged to notify Environment Canterbury (ECan) or Cera, and Cera monitored the disposal process.
Cera was not aware of ECan raising any issues about the Skelly site apart from dust, and Cera did not test dumping sites, of which there were 47 around the city.
A spokeswoman said ECan had not tested the site and referred The Press to the Labour Department and Cera.
It was not part of ECan's function to test dumping sites, she said..
The Labour Department said contractors had to notify it of the presence of asbestos.
- The Press