Old landfill risks aired

Les Wallen looks over the site of an old landfill.

Mayoral candidate Les Wallen has exposed what he calls a “hidden time bomb” right at the front door to Tauranga’s CBD – but is it still ticking?

Les says he has historical evidence a tip, or rubbish dump, was situated on the shores of Waikareao Estuary at the bottom of Elizabeth Street.

“Leachate, awful stuff, a super-strong syrup of baddies for the harbour.”

And he’s raising the spectre of an environmental upheaval on the scale of the recent incident on West Coast of the South Island when coastal erosion exposed an old dump full of ex-industrial state coal waste.
There were fears toxic waste might seep into the sea. Then storms exposed an old landfill near the Fox River and 135,000 kilograms of rubbish was strewn along 64 kilometres of coastline. It was a huge clean-up – 11,730 bags of rubbish.

“So what’s involved for our community?” asks Les. “Forget it and pray? Can’t do that. It’s probably still leaching after all these years as water comes over it and through it.” 

Les has done his homework – he got tipped off from an elderly neighbour who remembers the Tauranga rubbish dump and did some library research. Les is right, at least on one score.

The old landfill in Glasgow Street, at the bottom of Elizabeth Street, was operated by the council in Glasgow Street in the 1940s. Then for three years from 1960, it was a privately-owned sawmill.

“We believe they would have dumped sawdust and offcuts on the site,” says Nic Johansson, the Tauranga City Council’s general manager of infrastructure,

But is there a hazard, a “super-strong syrup of baddies” as Les Wallen suggests?

Nic Johansson says the area is noted as a HAIL site – Hazardous Activities and Industries List. It will be on the LIM reports of all properties in the area, which means property owners in the industrial area, zoned for commercial activities, will be aware.

Nic confirms there have been no reports of instability with the Glasgow Street landfill. And he says the land is protected from coastal erosion by Takatimu Drive.

It is close to 60 years since the area was used as a landfill. And in that time there have been no reports of leachate or issues with ground contamination. There is no formal council monitoring of the site.

Then Les turns his sights to Hampden Downs – the Waikato landfull where Tauranga sends all its rubbish. “Hampden Downs is within spitting distance of the Waikato River, it’s adjacent to the river.

“Distance is not important in these matters, water goes into the catchment no matter what man does.”

So Les wants to know exactly where our trash goes. “And who will be responsible if its destination is environmentally unsatisfactory.

“If I am elected I am going to sort this warts and all.”