Testing measures dust from trucks

By Mike Dinsdale

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Obi Khanal, quality specialist from Northland Regional Council; Bhupesh Kaushal, instrument technician from Water Care Services Auckland; and Alex Wright with an air quality monitoring machine on Wright Rd. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Obi Khanal, quality specialist from Northland Regional Council; Bhupesh Kaushal, instrument technician from Water Care Services Auckland; and Alex Wright with an air quality monitoring machine on Wright Rd. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Air quality testing has begun on a notoriously dusty Whangarei rural road and residents hope the results will help get their road fully sealed or stop logging trucks from travelling past their homes.

Whangarei District Council late last year sealed 10 strips of 100m outside homes on Wright, McCardle and Pipiwai roads to try to alleviate problems with dust from logging trucks that has been plaguing the residents.

The council allocated $400,000 over the next two years for the sealing after the New Zealand Transport Agency declined a $4.5 million funding request for a full 9km seal of Wright Rd and McCardle Rd. Since the work is expected to cost $532,000, the council asked logging and trucking industries to make up the $132,000 shortfall.

The council is paying for air quality monitoring equipment to monitor how effective the sealing works have been on Wright Rd, with the testing to starting on Wednesday and lasting for two weeks.

Wright Rd resident and Pipiwai Titoki Advocacy for Community Health and Safety Group spokeswoman Alex Wright said residents were happy the dust particle testing was being done and hoped it would lead to the road being fully sealed.

If the dust particles exceeded national safety standards the group hoped the Northland Regional Council, which is responsible for air quality issues, would issue WDC with an abatement notice to stop the logging trucks going down the road.

Wright Rd residents make their concerns about their dusty road clear.
Wright Rd residents make their concerns about their dusty road clear.

Results from PM10 (particles' micron size) tests will be used to determine how much of a health hazard the dust is around the homes that have had the strips sealed in front of them. She said under national air quality standards the level of particulate matter, which is what the monitor will be testing for, needs to be less than 50 micrograms per cubic metre in a 24 hour period.

"Any exceeding of PM10, and the NRC needs to by law serve the WDC an abatement notice," she said.

Northland's Medical Officer of Health Clair MIlls is also keeping an eye on the situation, saying potentially dangerous dust is an issue on many Northland roads and around the country, but particularly on those with heavy logging truck movements.

Ms Mills was at Wright Rd on Wednesday for the start of the monitoring and said in the 20 minutes she was there 10 logging trucks passed.

She said dust could cause serious health issues for residents and exacerbate existing medical conditions and if the national standards, devised by the Ministry of Health, were exceeded then the NRC was able to issue an abatement notice.

"It's basically a problem of the rural infrastructure that hasn't been addressed as logging activity has increased. If a person wants to subdivide a rural property they generally have to bring the roading infrastructure up to standard, but forestry (harvesting) doesn't have to."

- Northern Advocate

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