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Toxic asbestos found dumped at side of road

Published: 7:39PM Saturday February 23, 2013 Source: ONE News

Almost two tonnes of highly toxic asbestos roofing has been found dumped in a public area in west Auckland.

A pedestrian alerted ONE News after discovering the dangerous waste.

"Seen some roosters, there's a horse up the road, come round the corner there... there's a pile of asbestos," said Ray Thomas describing how he made the grim find.

Despite having the potential to be highly toxic, the two tonnes of asbestos was dumped on the side of the road in Swanson, just half-an-hour's drive from central Auckland.

"Everybody knows what white asbestos can do, it's nasty stuff," said Thomas.

He was right to be concerned - if it is exposed to materials like water, asbestos can lead to chronic illness, lung conditions and a deadly form of cancer.

While the unpleasant haul was discovered close to a dry riverbed, the potential for damage or injury could have been a lot higher if the current sunny, dry weather had changed while it lay undiscovered.

ONE News reporter Ruth Wynn-Williams tracked down the person responsible for removing the roof, who told her he wrapped the asbestos and took it to his own home.

The man says his intention was to dispose of it properly, but his grandchildren gave the scrap metal to an unknown member of the public who wanted to use it for a project of their own.

Asbestos transfer stations charge around $250 a tonne to dump the toxic material - avoiding that fee is the most likely reason it ended up at the side of the road, say authorities.

Auckland Council said there were at least three prosecutions for dumping similar waste in 2012, with penalties ranging from $5000 to $25,000 depending on the level of asbestos and the scale of damage to the environment.

The council has now removed the toxic roofing, in a clean-up operation which ONE News understands to have cost more than $2000, and it will now decide whether it can lay charges.

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