Lack of timetable for removing burnt tyres frustrates residents

Smoke coming from the tyres before the site was smothered last weekend. Photo: Supplied /...
Smoke coming from the tyres before the site was smothered last weekend. Photo: Supplied / Environment Canterbury
Amberley residents are frustrated there's no set time-frame around capping and removing a huge pile of tyres which was set alight two weeks ago.

The pile of about 160,000 tyres was set alight, sending thick black smoke across the North Canterbury town.

It's the second time a pile of tyres on the Racecourse Rd property has been set alight.

The fire is now out and Environment Canterbury has covered it in soil and is looking to cap the pile further.

Authorities involved in the fire response held a community meeting last night to update residents on progress.

From left: Hurunui Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie, ECan's Andrew Arps and Hurunui District...
From left: Hurunui Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie, ECan's Andrew Arps and Hurunui District Mayor Marie Black. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy
ECan spokesman Andrew Arps told the crowd of about 60 people the landowner was involved in the process of dealing with the pile.

"The site was smothered last weekend so there's no more smoke coming from the pile but it's still very hot if you get close to it so that will take a while to cool down.

"The focus remains on making the site safe and stable. We still need to cap the site in one form or another."

He said they were still looking at using clay but the regional council has received a technical report from Tonkin and Taylor which recommended installing a membrane that has vents over the pile.

"That is being considered but it would take time to put in place, so we are looking at all options but obviously we want to do it in a timely matter."

Arps said the decision on what capping method will be used would be made in the next week but he couldn't say when the capping would take place or when the toxic waste can be completely removed.

Amberley residents listen to the speakers outline the latest update on the tyres. Photo: RNZ /...
Amberley residents listen to the speakers outline the latest update on the tyres. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy
Water, air quality tests clear
Residents at the meeting were mostly concerned about the health effects the fire could have had on them - asking questions about the ground water, ash which was been left all over their properties and the toxic smoke.

An ECan spokesman said all testing of the groundwater and wells near the site had come back clear.

The council installed air quality monitors at a nearby school and preschool - all readings have come back clear, but testing of the ash particles will take a few weeks longer to come back.

Canterbury medical officer of health Cheryl Brunton said exposure to smoke had the potential to exacerbate existing respiratory conditions but was not likely to cause ongoing health effects as the fire was only burning for a couple of days and locals were told to stay inside.

"Because we don't know how much smoke any individual might have inhaled, we are working with experts in air quality to carry out a more comprehensive risk assessment of the range of possible health impacts."

Julia McLean, founder of community group Accountability Action which has been fighting to get the pile of tyres removed since 2019, said last night's meeting was lacklustre.

"We had wine- and olive-growers offering their leaves for testing because they're concerned about their livelihoods and health and they were told that there's no point in doing that.

"They're telling us to wash our produce but it's still unclear if the soil is affected from the ash. They couldn't answer a lot of questions so there's still so much uncertainty."

She said it was good that things were happening - but there was still no clear timeframe around when the pile will be removed.

She queried whether there was any assurance to the community "that this will all be done in a timely matter. We just don't feel confident that the local authorities have a handle on this".

A man has been charged with arson in relation to the fire which broke out on January 30.

 

 

 

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