Residents weigh up arsenic risk

Residents of a Thames suburb sitting on arsenic-contaminated land will meet next month to discuss new data from soil testing on their properties – with indications elevated arsenic levels may not pose a serious health risk.

New bioavailability data indicates arsenic at Moanataiari is not readily absorbed by humans, suggesting recommended national guidelines for arsenic in soil could be increased.

National Environmental Standards for arsenic in soil is 20 parts per million (ppm) but toxicologists have said there is no increased health risk living at Moanataiari where arsenic is up to 50ppm.

The national standards assume 100 per cent of contaminants ingested are absorbed by the body.

New data indicates bioavailability at Moanataiari is significantly lower than 100 per cent.

Soil samples also show properties on the eastern side of Moanataiari recorded higher levels of contamination than those on the west.

The testing follows months of uncertainty around elevated arsenic levels found in the seaside suburb – believed to have come from mine tailings used as landfill for the Moanataiari subdivision more than 100 years ago.

Living on land with 20ppm arsenic equals an increased lifetime risk of developing cancer of about 0.0001 per cent.

A public meeting will be hosted by Moanataiari project governance group at the Thames Coromandel District Council’s chambers on December 5, from 11.30am.

A response options report will sent to property owners and residents this month.

Waikato Times