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Government disposal plans may endanger critical water source

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 28, 2012) – A former member of parliament in Niue says a lot of people on the island are worried by government plans to bury asbestos waste, rather than ship it off shore.

Asbestos was used extensively in the 1950s and 1960s to repair cyclone damaged houses but as it has deteriorated it has posed growing concerns about how to get rid of it.

The problems were heightened by the damage caused by Cyclone Heta eight years ago and the government has since been trying to collect and store it in containers.

Now it has an agreement, in principle, to bury the asbestos on the island, but a former MP, Matua Robert Rex, says it could endanger Niue’s artesian water source.

"Well I would like them to rethink and I would like some reassurance that if this has to be done then I would to have some assurance. The people have a right to some assurance that it will not endanger our water, lands, and the environment as a whole."

[PIR editor’s note: Niue Environmental Department Director Sauni Togatule says precautions for the planned burial of asbestos "exceed" New Zealand environmental requirements. Concerns over the affect toxic asbestos leaching into Niue’s water lens are being addressed in an environmental impact assessment this week, according to the department. A number of measures, including a concrete bunker to surround the waste, are being considered.]

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