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Councillors agree to progress issues relating to landfill sites

22 November 2003

Christchurch City Council yesterday agreed on a plan of action that works towards addressing the issues relating to former landfills and other filled sites in the city.

In a public excluded part of the Council meeting, Councillors agreed to adopt a plan for dealing with landfills and sites around the city containing controlled/uncontrolled landfills, and also for dealing with the specific issues relating to private properties in the Sandilands area.

The Council’s investigation into former landfills, and their associated potential effects, began in August 2001 when it commissioned Montgomery Watson Harza to carry out soil tests at its housing complex Lyn Christie Place, as part of the housing asset management plan. Since then, under its obligations as landlord, the Council has tested a further nine of its own sites. All of the nine sites may have been used as a site for waste deposit prior to Council housing being built on them.

At Sandilands, where the Council historically owned a 12.5ha dump site, the Council offered to pay for soil tests on 16 private properties. Of these, six property owners took up the offer and their properties were subsequently tested. Five of the six private properties tested showed elevated levels of soil contaminants present.

In the last six months, the Council has been investigating and refining its data and information on all known sites in the city. There are approximately 120 known former landfill sites within the city. While some of these remain in Council ownership, the balance have been sold. The Council’s investigations to date suggest that there are approximately 1000 separate residential land parcels located on former landfills which were originally owned by the Council or its predecessor councils.

Ken Lawn, the Council’s Director of Operations, said that the Council's investigations of housing complex sites had triggered the wider study involving many sites throughout the city.

“ The issue of former landfill sites stretches right across the city, and must be handled with care to ensure that the information gathered is accurate. At this stage, we have a long list of individual properties which deserve further investigation. Councillors have given clear instructions to staff to continue their research on these sites, to get better data on each one”.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Mel Brieseman said that any risk to individuals' health as a result of some exposure to a former landfill site is likely to be limited.

“ The substances involved in sites of former landfills are not acutely toxic, and so there is no immediate serious threat to an individual's health”.

Dr Brieseman says that where levels of contaminants on a property exceed guidelines, the amount of actual risk to an individual can vary greatly, depending on a number of factors including the exact chemicals involved, the method of absorption into the body, and the duration of exposure.

In relation to landfills and sites containing controlled/uncontrolled landfills, the Council agreed at yesterday's meeting to:

  • Meet its public law obligations by:

(i) carrying out a desktop study of former landfill sites in the Christchurch City area in order to determine whether there are records of the precise nature of the material placed at the sites, and whether there have been adequate measures put in place (eg capping) to isolate contamination from occupiers of the relevant properties.

(ii) including other relevant investigations (such as aerial photographs) in the desktop study.

(iii) deciding, in light of the desktop and related studies, whether it is necessary to carry out a process of soil testing at various representative locations.

(iv) considering whether there is a need to draw the attention of landowners to potential risks of activity such as sub-soil excavation, growing of vegetables, and general exposure to soil.

(v) advising property owners of the need for mitigation measures if evidence becomes available of a significant likelihood of a health risk on individual properties. It may be necessary to take more proactive measures to compel clean-up of individual properties.

(vi) continuing to update information held on the Council’s property files so that the most accurate information is provided on land information memorandums (LIMs) and property information memorandums (PIMs) for each individual property in the area.

  • Provide up-to-date information on all PIMs and LIMs for properties on former landfills and sites of controlled/uncontrolled fill.
  • Develop a protocol as to the circumstances under which it will advise individual landowners of information which is added to their property files, and report back on this protocol to the Council's Regulatory and Consents Committee
  • Authorise the Environmental Services Manager to (a) implement all steps outlined above, and address any other issues regarding former landfills and other filled sites that may arise and (b) provide further information to landowners on a case-by-case basis.

In relation to Sandilands, the Council agreed at yesterday's meeting to:

  • Meet its public law obligations by:

(i) Drawing the attention of landowners and occupiers to the potential risks of certain activities such as sub-soil excavation, and growing of vegetables. This should be done in relation to the properties which have been tested or adjoin or are in the vicinity of properties which have been tested and exceed recommended environmental guidelines.

(ii) Advising the affected property owners of the need for mitigation measures, if it is decided that the health risks associated with contamination on a particular site require “clean-up” or other specific mitigation measures.

(iii) Taking formal action to compel clean-up or other mitigation measures on particular sites if necessary, depending on the response of affected residents.

(iv) Revising the information held on the Council’s property files so that the most up-to-date information is provided on LIMs and PIMs for each individual property in the area.

  • Not embark on any programme of property acquisition or payment for the clean-up of properties.
  • Advise residents that it is not prepared to agree to rates reductions because of any perceived impacts on property values.
  • Advise residents that it is not prepared at this stage to fund blood tests.
  • Investigate the question of dust nuisance from the easement to ascertain whether a health risk exists and whether its exercise of its rights under the easement has caused or contributed to this problem.
  • Update and modify the standard LIM and PIM reports for the Sandilands area to reflect the best available information from time to time.

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