‘Toxic’ fears block preschool

With a cloak at home, Mar­garet Bond just wants flow­ers

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - JENNIFER EDER

‘‘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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.