Roofing dumped in the Waimana River last month contained asbestos, testing has shown.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council is investigating rubbish dumped on the water's edge and roof cladding in the water at Wardlaw Glade, just over two weeks ago.
An asbestos assessor took samples of the roofing on July 29 and this week the regional council's compliance manager Stephen Mellor said results showed it was asbestos Super Six cladding.
The council "facilitated the clearing of the dumped material so there is no asbestos-containing material left on site".
If there is strong evidence to suggest a particular person or group of people are responsible for dumping like this, the regional council can serve an abatement notice, a $300 infringement fine, carry out prosecution or a combination of these options.
Super Six asbestos cladding was used in both industrial and residential buildings before the year 2000.
Intact asbestos in good condition is not dangerous - it is only harmful if disturbed, damaged or deteriorating.
It can pose a major health threat if the silicate particles are breathed in and become lodged in the lungs.
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WorkSafe estimates that in 2010, 600 to 900 people died of work-related diseases in New Zealand and about 170 of these were asbestos-related. Asbestos-related diseases take around 20 years before symptoms start to show.
At the time of the dumping Whakatāne deputy mayor Andrew Iles said it was "incomprehensible".
"For somebody to dump asbestos sheeting, not on the side of the river but in the river as well ... I just didn't honestly believe such people could exist," he said.
Toi Te Ora Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack said last month fly-tipping of any materials could pose potential health hazards.
"Anyone wishing to swim in a waterway should do their own assessment of the local situation."
Shoemack suggested people check the immediate environment for the likes of farm animals, discoloured water, water that smells unusual, or foreign objects in the water.
Worried about asbestos exposure?
• Buildings built, altered or refurbished from 1940 until the mid-1980s are likely to have asbestos-containing materials.
• If you need to get a sample tested, contact a health protection officer at the public health unit of your local district health board (Toi Te Ora for the Lakes and Bay of Plenty DHBs).
• Do not take a sample without consulting public health advisers first.
Source: Ministry of Health