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Arsenic Factsheet (PDF 156KB) 

Q: Can we be sure there is no arsenic in our water?
A: Yes. QLDC tested the water in the Frankton water supply and the arsenic levels were barely detectable – there is no reason to be concerned about the safety of the reticulated supply.

Q: Does arsenic occur naturally?
A: Yes. Arsenic is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust. It is often found in Otago, including other parts of the Queenstown Lakes District. Arsenic is commonly associated with schist rock and gold.

Q: I’m worried that there may be high levels of arsenic on my property. What can I do?
A: You can arrange to have your soil tested. If the analysis of soil samples showed high levels of arsenic on your property you would need to have had a substantial intake of soil over a long period for it to cause a health problem; the standards are precautionary and from a health point of view there is relatively little risk. You may wish to consider replacing the soil in your garden.
If you have young children, make sure they do not eat soil.
If you grow your own vegetables, make sure you wash them thoroughly and wash your hands after gardening to avoid accidentally ingesting soil.

Q: Is there a medical test for arsenic?
A: There is no blood test for arsenic. A urine test, taken soon after possible exposure, can tell if arsenic consumption is above the recommended level. If a test is within the normal range, it would indicate that the exposure is not hazardous. Tests on hair or nails is provided privately in some countries but we are not aware of any internationally accredited laboratory test for hair or nails. Such a test would not provide any information of diagnostic value.

Q: What’s the risk to my children from playing outside?
A: The risk is minimal if they are playing on your lawn or driveway and paths. If young children are playing in dust or dirt it’s important to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

Q: What will the LIM on my property say?
The standard wording on each LIM will say:
Arsenic – The Council holds information about arsenic levels as a result of surface soil sampling undertaken on its behalf by Davis Consulting Group from road reserve areas outside of private property in this area. The recorded arsenic levels are between the National Environment Soil Contaminant Standard for arsenic for residential soil (20 milligrams per kilogram of soil – mg/kg) and for recreational land (80 mg/kg) as shown in the attached plan and results.

And for the properties where the Council is provided with results for that property:
Arsenic – The Council holds information about arsenic levels as a result of sampling undertaken on private land at this site as attached.

Q: Why does the Council have to tag the LIMs?
A: QLDC does not have discretion in this matter. Section 44A(2) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) sets out all the matters a Council is required to include in a LIM, and this includes the “likely presence of hazardous contaminants”.

Q: How can I get the information removed from my LIM?
A: As long as the arsenic remains in the soil in the roadside reserves, the information on the LIM will remain. However, if you choose to have the soil on your property tested and the results are under 20mg/kg, and you provide that information to QLDC, we will record that information on your LIM to show that the soil on the property complies with the national environmental standards for arsenic on residential land.

Q: How come Council has decided not remove or remediate any of the contaminated soil from the road berms in the areas where the testing has shown levels of 20-80? If these levels are above the residential limit of 20, then why are the allowing this soil to remain when it is surrounded by residential properties?
A: Because the levels are not high enough to cause concern. They are within the levels permitted for recreational activity which is considered to be consistent with the types of use of those road reserve areas.

Q: If we decide to replace our soil, where would it go?
A: Remarkables Park Ltd has offered to accept delivery of soil from residential properties in the Riverside Road subdivision that is being replaced with new soil. RPL will dispose of the contaminated soil in a secure containment site, subject to obtaining the appropriate resource consents. RPL has also offered to provide replacement soil for collection. For more details please contact Brian Fitzpatrick -