Sunday, November 28

Tiwai Point Smelter Contamination Levels Exceed Key Thresholds

Testing at the Tiwai Pt aluminum smelter has revealed that soil, drains and groundwater are contaminated to levels that exceed key thresholds.

Tiwai Point

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The latest tests released by the company have found that 83 percent of groundwater samples exceed drinking water standards, as well as regional council guidelines for aluminum and toxic fluoride.

New Zealand Aluminum Smelters says no one uses groundwater for drinking.

He adds that all the tests at 238 locations are focused on the areas that are likely to be the most contaminated, near the factory or below the storage areas for the most toxic waste.

“There is no risk to human health,” said NZAS.

In a couple of these places, fluoride was 20 times higher and aluminum 130 times higher than drinking water standards. See the follow-up slides on pages 8 and 9.

Two-thirds of the drain samples also exceed the thresholds.

Closing preparation general manager Nicole Atherton said they are working to improve their game.

“We recognize that some waste has been mishandled in the past and this was not acceptable,” it said in a statement.

The samples were much more likely to exceed acceptable recreational levels than industrial levels, indicating that putting another factory on the site will not be a problem, but turning it into a park would be.

Confusion persists in the government over what standard the smelter’s owner, Rio Tinto, intends to return the site, which adjoins conservation land, by the time the smelter closes in 2024.

The maps show 11 industrial grade upgrades around the plant and 40 recreational grade upgrades, some very close to the sea.

Soil testing indicated that “the contamination is close to the surface and can be easily remedied,” said NZAS.

It has a provision of $ 300 million for a cleanup, but Rio Tinto and its smallest shareholder, Sumitomo Group, have resisted attempts by the government to underwrite this, OIA’s statements to RNZ have shown.

The new tests show that between one-tenth and one-sixth of the sampled soil will need treatment if it is to be dug up and placed in a safe landfill elsewhere.

The smelter’s landfill is threatened by rising sea levels, according to official studies.

NZAS has promised to remove more than 200,000 tonnes of the most contaminated waste, spent cell liner or SCL, yet has refused government requests to commit to excavating its massive landfill.

More research is needed on what impacts polluted groundwater and sewage, contaminated with nickel and zinc, could have on the marine environment, according to reports, although NZAS also said that sewage “is considered unlikely to pose a risk to the environment. coastal environment “.

As for the soil, the samples do not come from routine work areas “and do not pose a risk to human health unless the soil is disturbed, which would only occur under strict supervision and requires a special permit.”

Information from the test has been released to iwi and the general public and will guide cleanup efforts, the company said.

He invited all concerned locals to contact [email protected]

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