By ELIZABETH BINNING
Nearly 5000 Auckland property owners will have to pay for tests to find out if their homes are sitting on land contaminated with higher than recommended levels of DDT, lead and arsenic.
The Auckland City Council yesterday released the locations of 4872 homes which it says could be sitting on old horticultural sites that were sprayed with a range of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.
Most of the homes are clustered in Rosebank Rd, Avondale, Glen Innes and Panmure. Some potentially affected properties are in Onehunga, Otahuhu, Pt England and Orakei.
The council is now writing to the affected owners saying their land could be contaminated with a range of chemicals, but they will have to pay for tests to confirm it.
The council has quoted a sample test at $225, with an average property needing three samples, but a company the Herald spoke to said testing was more likely to cost between $2000 and $3000 for each property.
That news has upset property owners - most of whom are in lower- to middle-income areas that used to be orchards, vineyards and market gardens in the mid 1900s.
Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard was yesterday quick to reassure residents that the potential soil contamination was not an "urgent public health crisis".
Medical Officer of Health Dr David Sinclair said the highest levels of contamination would be on properties where there had been glass houses, chemical storage sheds or spills. The most concerning chemicals would be lead and DDT.
An Auckland Regional Council study found elevated contaminant levels in 45 per cent of the historic horticultural sites it tested in 2001.
Dr Sinclair said people could take sensible precautions, such as washing their hands after touching soil or replacing dirt in vegetable gardens to prevent health-related problems if tests showed higher than recommended levels of contaminants.
Regardless of whether property owners get soil tests done the information about their potentially contaminated land will be recorded on LIM reports, which are often viewed by prospective buyers.
Property owners yesterday said they were worried their properties would be devalued if they did not get a test - or if tests read positive.
Mr Hubbard said the issue of compensation for affected property owners "certainly wasn't on the agenda at this stage".
Green MP Sue Kedgley last night called for the Government to take responsibility for the soil contamination and pay for the tests.
She said the problem was not limited to Auckland City.
North Shore is investigating the matter, and about 3000 homes are potentially affected in West Auckland. More than 180 properties were affected in Hamilton last year and 78 in Nelson.
In the Waikato case authorities paid for a sample of tests, eight of which returned higher than acceptable levels of DDT and arsenic.
The Environment Ministry has funds to help authorities with the investigation of soil contamination.
Auckland City Council map: