Raromart waste about face

Wednesday August 15, 2018 Written by Published in Environment
A pie of the toxic-smelling remnants from the fire which destroyed Raromart last month. A pie of the toxic-smelling remnants from the fire which destroyed Raromart last month.

The Cook Islands National Environment Service (NES) has confirmed that there was no approval given to a contractor clearing away the charred remains of the Raromart Megastore building to dump waste on a nearby wetland.

 

CINews notified NES about activity taking place on Monday whereby waste which looked like toxic materials left over from the July fire were being dumped on a nearby wetland inland from the site in Teotue, Tutakimoa.

The contract workers from T&M Heather were also witnessed covering the waste materials with soil and gravel.

NES director Joseph Brider said they initially agreed to allow concrete slabs from the burned-down building to be buried next to the site.

However, after a visit to the site yesterday, Brider said they have decided that none of the waste, including the concrete slabs, would be disposed of near the site.

This decision, he said, was made in consultation with the landowner, Raromart and the contractor.

“Everything from the site will be taken to the landfill or the scrap metal site (Cook Islands General Transport),” Brider said.

“The contract workers said they were only piling the hazardous materials which were destined to eventually go to the landfill. It wasn’t intended to be buried on the site.

“Now everything, all the waste materials including the concrete slabs, will be taken off the site.”

Brider said the green light to move the waste from the site was given to allow the workers to deal with asbestos materials that were present in the destroyed building.

“It might have given an impression that stuff is being moved to the wetland but that’s not the arrangement. It is only to create space for the workers to deal with the asbestos materials on the site.”

When contacted for comment, Raromart owner Don Carlaw said he was not aware of any toxic waste being dumped on the wetland.

However, he said he was aware of an arrangement between the landowner and the contractor to have the waste, not including the toxic materials, disposed of nearby the site.

A witness, who visited the site on Monday, said there was an awful smell near the site and within minutes of getting near the area, his eyes were sore and itchy.

Raromart reportedly received a shipment of paint and TV sets before the fire on July 10 and there was a mass of plastic and rubber products in the shop which were all destroyed in the incident.

There has been a pervading toxic smell in the area since the fire, raising health concerns for the people living nearby. However, the Public Health department, despite earlier efforts from this newspaper, is yet to publicly acknowledge any health issue arising from the toxic smell in the area.

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