Shock chemical find


High arsenic levels have been found in a Frankton neighbourhood.

Queenstown’s council called an urgent press conference yesterday to reveal test results from roadside berms on some streets at Remarkables Park

A public meeting will be held at St Margaret’s Presbyterian Church hall at 6.30pm today.

Levels from the berms reached as high as 78 micrograms per kilogram.

The national environmental standard is 20mg/kg for residential areas.

But parks and recreational reserves can safely have up to 80mg.

Local medical officer of health Derek Bell says the greatest risk is from direct ingestion through home-grown veggies, from unwashed hands after gardening or children eating soil.

He says arsenic is carcinogenic and can be a contributory factor to skin cancers, and also lead to skin pigment changes.

It can also cause general sickness.

But, he says, for Frankton: “Generally, at the levels of arsenic observed so far, health effects would not be expected.”

The national standards are “very precautionary” and assume more than 10 per cent of a person’s diet comes from the home-grown veggies over a lifetime.

It is not known whether there are even similar concentrations on the private properties themselves because they haven’t been tested.

How did it get there? The theory is the arsenic was brought in with the soil for the road berms by contractors engaged by Remarkables Park Ltd (RPL) when the subdivision was built in the early 1990s, before the limits were introduced in 2012.

It’s not known where the soil came from.

But, crucially, the same soil was not used for the sections.

RPL says in a statement elevated levels were found during routine soil testing on bordering development land, which prompted further tests. Queenstown council’s planning and infrastructure boss Tony Avery says residents and homeowners have been told by letter.

The test results will be noted on the official land registry for properties next to the berms with elevated levels.

Copper Beech Avenue, Juniper Place, Magnolia Place, Alder Avenue, Elm Tree Avenue, and parts of Riverside Road are affected.

Landowners can choose to have their own properties sampled, Avery says.

RPL says it’s tested soil across its entire 150ha development site. Soil across three per cent exceeded the standard and will be removed.