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Moanataiari estimated increase in risk very small

22 November 2012

Thames Coromandel Mayor Glenn Leach said that the Moanataiari Health Risk Assessment (HRA) published today shows that the potential risk to human health in Moanataiari is very small.

"In the areas with the highest levels of naturally occurring arsenic, the increased potential risk of people developing cancer is estimated at 0.005%; and the good news is there is no additional risk in the western side of the subdivision".

"Government policy states that the acceptable level of increased risk is 0.001%, which relates to the 20 parts per million (ppm) arsenic standard everyone's been talking about" said Mayor Leach.

"My personal opinion is that this policy may be a good one for remediating high risk orphan sites like old timber treatment plants, but not very useful for places where people already live and where the contamination is largely naturally occurring and not readily absorbed by the body if soil is consumed".

"The extra good news for Moanataiari is that because the arsenic is naturally occurring with low bioavailability, which was to be expected in highly mineralised areas such as this, the 20 ppm standard can be raised to 50 ppm, which is why many of the properties in the west are now considered to present no additional risk".

The project's Governance Group meet in early December to determine whether remediation is required at Moanataiari.

"The question we all need to wrestle with is, is spending millions of dollars to remediate nature a good thing, or can we manage these tiny risks in a  smarter way? What about the other parts of Thames, Coromandel, Waihi and beyond which also sit on highly mineralised soils?

"We also understand that Hamilton's drinking water, by comparison, delivers a dose of arsenic that is seven times higher than that obtainable from Moanataiari soils at the level of the national standard of 20 ppm. That's because the source of Hamilton's water supply comes from the volcanic plateau, which contains moderate levels of naturally occurring arsenic. So this issue of exposure to naturally occurring arsenic is a NZ-wide issue, not just a Moanataiari one".

TCDC CHIEF EXECUTIVE DAVID HAMMOND has recently written to the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health to ask for the Ministry's advice on what they think needs to be done at Moanataiari now the potential risk to health is shown to be very small.

Read the letter to the Ministry of Health