Residents: ‘What about us?’
Maisy Rain was born while the earth shook violently around her
A decision to block plans for a new preschool next to a Blenheim sawmill over possible toxic emissions has nearby residents wondering ‘‘what about us?’’
Some people living close to the Timberlink sawmill say the decision has renewed their fears about what exactly is wafting over their homes from the sawmill’s chimney.
While some parents, who already send their children to an existing primary school over the river, say they are worried their children could be breathing in toxic fumes.
But others say they trust the Marlborough District Council is monitoring the site correctly.
The preschool proposed for Birchwood Ave was refused resource consent earlier this month because a commissioner was not convinced there were no harmful health effects from the nearby Timberlink kiln.
NZ Air consultant Donovan Van Kekem wrote a report on air quality for the preschool consent hearing, but could not confirm there was no health risk from Timberlink because he could not visit the site.
Prolonged exposure to chromium, copper and arsenic emissions, a common byproduct of drying treated wood, could be harmful to children, he said.
The decision came as several properties in new nearby subdivisions Burleigh Estate and Omaka Landing went on the market.
A Burleigh Rd resident, who would not be named, said she had always wondered what effect Timberlink’s emissions had on her family’s health.
‘‘That decision does make me concerned. Perhaps it’s not as harmful as it seems, but it’s the not knowing that’s the problem. It does make you wonder ‘what about us?’’’
A Richmond View School parent, who would not be named, said the commissioner’s decision took her concerns about smoke and steam from the plant to a new level.
‘‘It had crossed my mind it could be harmful. But I assumed that for the school to be put here, they must have run some tests to check it was OK.
‘‘Knowing about the decision does make me more concerned. If you think about what’s at stake for the children here [at Richmond View School], and the concerns that have been raised, maybe Timberlink needs to come clean about what’s going on.’’
Timberlink chief executive Ian Tyson said there was no cause for concern, and he did not understand why people were worried.
‘‘We’re not doing anything that’s not compliant or standard in the industry.’’
Tyson was not aware Van Kekem was prevented from visiting the Blenheim site for his report, he said. ‘‘I don’t know who he spoke to, I have no knowledge of that.’’
Tyson had no interest in reading the report or the commissioner’s decision, he said.
‘‘The decision on the childcare centre has nothing to do with us. We’re not the applicant, our responsibility is to comply with our resource consents and that’s what we’re doing. Whatever the commissioner’s view was, that’s up to him.
‘‘We bought the business a few years ago and we’ve made a significant investment into it. We’ve put $10 million into it and increased employment by 50 jobs, and we’ve got good relationships with our neighbours. Timberlink is a good news story, really.’’
Richmond View School parent Chris McKelvey said he was not worried about airborne emissions from Timberlink.
‘‘I used to work in a place that burnt nylon fibre, and there was a lot of stuff we had to do to meet standards about air quality. And it’s no different for Timberlink. You get a bit of smoke when the burners start up but as long as it’s done the right way, I wouldn’t be worried.
‘‘They’ll be getting monitored closely by the council too, so as long as they’re getting monitored properly, I can’t see what the problem is.’’
Richmond View School principal Dave Pauling declined to comment.
A woman, who lived across the river from Timberlink, said smoke from the mill’s chimney could be irritating but she doubted it was causing health problems.
‘‘We live by the school and it’s no problem for us. I do agree the smoke is a problem but the timber mill has been there a long time and when you build beside something, you can’t complain too much.’’
The Marlborough District Council provided a review of Timberlink’s resource consents for commissioner Jeremy Butler, saying it was satisfied the company was compliant, but Butler said the review raised ‘‘substantial uncertainties’’ around the knowledge of ‘‘potential adverse effects’’.
Timberlink chief executive Ian Tyson says the Blenheim sawmill is complying with its resource consents.