Further soil tests at ORC property

Public Health South officials have asked for more soil tests to be carried out at a property in Selwyn St, Northeast Valley, found to be contaminated by lead.

Otago Regional Council staff returned to the property yesterday to carry out the tests, ORC support services manager Gerard Collings confirmed, yesterday.

The soil samples were taken from the surface of the property, to check lead levels were the same as those found by previous tests at the property, which were taken from a depth of 50mm, he said.

The tests were recommended by Public Health South officials in a report on the property and appropriate safety measures, Mr Collings said.

PHS had been invited by the council to provide the report, but was generally happy with the steps being taken to protect the tenants from possible contamination, Mr Collings said.

PHS medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore said the report also recommended children at the property be discouraged from playing and gardening in the soil, any vegetables grown on site be thoroughly cleaned before consumption, and soil taken from the property be safely disposed of.

Surface soil test results were not expected to be available until some time in January, she said.

In October, the Otago Daily Times revealed the property was laced with lead and being leased by the council, through property managers Harveys Dunedin, to three adults and three young children who were unaware of the presence of the lead.

Harveys staff had failed to warn the tenants about the lead, which was thought to be present at levels of up to 1100mg per kg of soil - nearly four times the recommended safe level of 300mg/kg for residential use.

A previous round of council soil tests, carried out soon after the tenants' plight was revealed, found lead was widespread across the property and at levels of up to 1400mg/kg.

Mr Collings said the surface test results would need to be considered before the council made any decision about what - if anything - to do about the contamination at the property.

The tenants had been advised of the new soil tests and given a copy of the PHS report, and appeared happy to stay at the property, he said.

One of the tenants, Tarlene - who declined to give her last name - said when contacted she was happy to stay over Christmas, but would decide whether to move once the final soil test results were known.

Blood test results for two of her children, aged 1 and 3, were clear of lead poisoning, her mother, who was visiting the property yesterday, said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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