Thursday, October 14, 2010
Blood tests for Mapua
The Press 14/10/2010
Mapua residents could be blood-tested for dioxins next year to see if they have been affected by the cleanup of the town's toxic chemical site.
The Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council this week called for proposals for the study. The contract is expected to be awarded in April.
The study will involve health questionnaires and blood samples, which will be matched against samples from volunteers from outside the region.
The samples will be tested for dioxins and other toxins, such as organochlorine pesticides.
Experimental New Zealand-designed technology was used to remediate the 3.3-hectare site where the former Fruitgrowers Chemical Company made pesticides for 55 years.
The three-year cleanup project finished in 2007.
Up to 200 people lived near the site from 2004-2006 – a period thought to cover the highest dioxin emissions.
Mapua is a small town in the South Island of New Zealand.
It is to the west of Nelson on State Highway 60 and on the coastline of Tasman Bay. The 2006 census gave a population of 1878, up 16.1 percent since the 2001 Census.
With a thriving wharf and commercial area, Mapua has grown in popularity for visitors, with numbers swelling the region over the summer months.
A large fair and market is held every Easter Sunday. Up to 30,000 people visit the town on this day to enjoy rides, stalls, and other attractions. The local schools and playcentre benefit from the fair, which is their primary fundraising activity.
 Former contaminated site
In the 20th century, Mapua was one of the most contaminated sites in New Zealand due to pesticide residues in the soils from a now defunct factory, but has since had a major cleanup operation.
In 1932 the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company built a plant to manufacture pesticides for use in the numerous orchards in the surrounding area. In the 1940s organomercury and organochlorine pesticides, including DDT, DDD, dieldrin, 2,4-D and paraquat, were produced. Organophosphorous pesticides were produced from the 1960s. By 1978, 124 chemicals were being used to produce 84 different formulations. The plant closed in 1988.
The site was taken over by the Tasman District Council in 1989, and measures were taken to prevent leaching of the chemicals into the adjoining Waimea Inlet. The 1999 Budget allocated $3.7 million towards containment of the site. Site decontamination was carried out, initially by Thiess Pty. Ltd. but later by the Ministry for the Environment. The site was handed back to the Tasman District Council in November 2007.