The threat of embalming fluids contaminating the water supply has prompted New Plymouth District Council to cut plans for a super cemetery in half.
The council paid $500,000 for 7 hectares of land near Egmont Village, 12km southeast of New Plymouth, for a $3 million cemetery development.
But an investigation has found that, because the land is bordered on two sides by the Waiwhakaiho River, the primary source of the city's water supply, lower levels alongside the waterway could not be used as a cemetery, because of a high risk of contaminants such as embalming fluids entering the groundwater, and eventually the river.
District council parks manager Mark Bruhn said yesterday the news of the unsuitability of the bottom level of the site was no surprise.
"The council purchased the land with the knowledge that site investigations had to take place," he told the Taranaki Daily News.
"We were also mindful of the fact that these days burials take up only about 30 per cent of cemetery business - the rest is cremation interments," he said.