‘Toxic’ fears block preschool
With a cloak at home, Margaret Bond just wants flowers
‘‘How would the manager of the centre know that children need to be brought indoors? If windows are open, how much of a risk still remains?’’ Commissioner Jeremy Butler
Plans for a preschool beside a timber mill have been shot down over concerns it could expose the children to toxic chemicals in the air.
And not even a promise to keep the children inside on ‘‘smoky days’’ could sway the commissioner.
The preschool, next to the Timberlink sawmill in Blenheim, was first proposed earlier this year, but opposition from neighbours triggered a resource consent hearing.
Commissioner Jeremy Butler released his report last week and said he could not be certain there was no health risk to the children from Timberlink’s emissions.
The report stated a NZ Air consultant was unable to visit the Timberlink plant to check how the company controlled its emissions.
The Marlborough District Council provided a review of Timberlink’s resource consents, saying it was satisfied the company was compliant, but Butler said the review raised ‘‘substantial uncertainties’’ around the knowledge of ‘‘potential adverse effects’’.
‘‘Had the matter of the discharge from the Timberlink facility been resolved satisfactorily, and suitable evidence presented, then my decision would likely have been the approval of resource consent,’’ Butler said.
‘‘Equally, if the applicant was able to provide an appropriate, practicable and workable mitigation solution that also could be favourably considered.’’
The applicant, Gemma, Beau and Heather Webster, said at the August hearing they could keep children indoors on ‘‘smoky days’’.
Butler said he was not convinced that would mitigate the risk. ‘‘How would the manager of the centre know that children need to be brought indoors? If windows are open, how much of a risk still remains? And to what extent are [pollutant] particles able to be detected as smoke?’’
NZ Air consultant Donovan Van Kekem spoke at the hearing where he outlined the various toxic chemicals that could be emitted into the air through steam from timber dried in a kiln.
Timber was often treated with chromated copper arsenate; a mix of chromium, copper and arsenic, he said. Prolonged exposure to arsenic, which was a carcinogen, could cause cancer, Van Kekem said. The 60-pupil preschool, designed for 4-month-olds to 5-year-olds, would be downwind of the sawmill about 20 per cent of the time, as the area mostly had a westerly wind, he said.
‘‘Steam droplets are unlikely to travel very far from the source of emission, however it appears that the kiln driers are close to the boundary of the proposed preschool,’’ Van Kekem said.
Van Kekem told the hearing the preschoolers’ ‘‘small and developing bodies’’ made them particularly vulnerable, the decision said.
Several neighbours opposing the preschool also listed extra traffic, noise and street lights as reasons to decline the application.
But expert witnesses said the extra vehicles would not be unsafe, off-street parking was sufficient, and noise would minimal compared to the sawmill. Neither the Websters nor Timberlink could not be reached for comment.