Environment Southland won’t release independent monitoring report for Tiwai Point
Article from: Stuff 18 October 2021. Report by Rachael Kelly, Southland Reporter.
Environment Southland won’t publicly release an independent report about its monitoring at the Tiwai Point smelter, saying releasing it may prejudice any investigation and detection of offences.
In February, Environment Minister David Parker allocated $300,000 in funding to the regional council to increase testing and monitoring at Tiwai Point to determine what environmental remediation will be required when the smelter closes.
Regional council chief executive Rob Phillips hired Aurecon, an engineering, design, and advisory company, to provide specialist technical expertise at the site.
The company had produced a report, but Environment Southland acting compliance manager Glen McMurdo said: ‘’the Aurecon report is unable to be released at this stage, as releasing it may prejudice any investigation and detection of offences.’’
The Ministry for the Environment has confirmed it has not received that report.
Environment Southland has also engaged EHS Support, an environmental consulting company with international experience in smelter closures, to review a Detailed Site Investigation report, which was released by New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) on Friday.
NZAS said that report, which included smelter site contamination results, “might cause concern to people”.
The aluminium producer engaged GHD Limited to complete the Detailed Site Investigation as part of studies to ensure the site was remediated to the required level when it closed.
Samples were gathered across 238 locations, mostly at levels 10cm to 1m below the surface, and were assessed against a range of criteria as per the Ministry for the Environment Contaminated Land Management Guidelines based on potential future land use: industrial or recreational.
In total, GHD found 83 per cent of groundwater samples exceeded guidelines within the New Zealand Drinking Water Standards and Environment Southland groundwater rules.
In July 2020, Rio Tinto announced it would wind down operations at the smelter, which employs more than 1000 people, by August 2021 because of high energy and transmission costs. However, after it reached an agreement on a new electricity agreement with Meridian Energy, operations were to continue until December 31, 2024.
The owner of the smelter, Rio Tinto, has confirmed that it will remove all spent cell lining, a hazardous by-product produced the aluminium smelting process, from Tiwai Point near Bluff.
However, documents released under the Official Information Act show that up until a recent meeting with Government ministers, Rio Tinto were unwilling to make the commitment, citing the fact it did not have a full understanding of the condition of the smelter site.
Posted: 19 October 2021