How it all went - Coastal Engineering Challenges in a Changing World

The Coastal Society event held last Thursday night in the 4Sight Offices was a great success. Thanks to Dr Steven Hughes from Colorado, who is visiting New Zealand as part of the Fulbright Specialist Program, in conjunction with the University of Auckland and NZ Coastal Society.

It was good to discuss the challenges around present-day coastal engineering, with other passionate professionals in the region. Dr Steven Hughes talk was videoed and live streamed, we will be adding a link a little later on.

PFAS (Per- and Poly-fluroalkyl substances)

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PFAS has again been in the news this week after it emerged that it had been found in fire-fighting foams still used and stored at Nelson Airport. But what exactly are PFAS…


PFAS are a large group of man-made chemical compounds that have both industrial and consumer uses. PFOS (Perfluoroocane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) are two compounds in the PFAS family that are of particular interest.


PFAS have been used around the world since the 1950s in the production of a wide range of products that resist heat, and in particular have been widely used around the world in the production of fire-fighting foams for quelling flammable liquid fires. For this reason, PFAS containing fire-fighting foams have been commonly used at airports, fire-fighter training facilities, Department of Defence facilities, and large industrial / manufacturing facilities. 
PFOS and PFOA compounds have also been used in the production of commercially available products such as: oil and water-resistant coatings on textiles and upholstery (carpets, leather, paints and inks), hydraulic fluids in some medical devices, Teflon products, colour printer / photo-copier parts, and some insecticides. 


When PFAS compounds were first developed and used in the 1950’s, they were considered relatively inert and non-hazardous. However, as more data has become available, our understanding of PFAS has improved. It is now understood that PFAS compounds (particularly PFOS and PFOA) are persistent in the environment (generally resistant to natural degradation processes), and bioaccumulate in the tissues of living organisms (including humans).


Due to such common use of PFAS containing products around the world, we are exposed to small amounts of some PFAS in everyday life, through food, dust, air and contact with products containing these compounds (including food wrappers and containers, clothing and electronics). Most people have small amounts of PFAS compounds in their systems, and at small levels is not known to cause a health risk.


Given the concern around PFAS is still relatively recent (e.g. the use of PFAS based fire-fighting foams has only been illegal in New Zealand since 2006), there remains a lack of certainty over the long-term risks to human health from significant exposure to PFAS.


In general, PFAS products have not been used as extensively in New Zealand as they have in other parts of the world. For instance, at a typical Defence site in Australia, it is estimated that 74,000 litres of PFOS/PFOA fire-fighting foam was used per year for 30-years (prior to being banned); in the same period, a typical Defence site in New Zealand is estimated to be approximately 1,000 litres per year.


Notwithstanding, PFAS compounds are considered to be a potential risk that should be considered alongside other more common contaminants of concern when developing conceptual site models at both preliminary site investigations (PSI), and details site investigations (DSI).


Given the prevalence of PFAS compounds in our everyday lives, and the relatively low thresholds at which accumulation in the environment triggers further assessment, additional protocols need to be implemented during the design and execution of site investigation / sampling activities to limit the potential for cross-contamination of samples and occurrence of ‘false positives’. Similarly, as PFAS compounds are very soluble, no detection of PFAS in soil samples at a Site is not necessarily an indication that groundwater has not been impacted by PFAS at the same site.


In the absence of specifically developed New Zealand guidance on PFAS investigation and assessment, practitioners have typically defaulted to the Western Australia Department of Environmental Regulation (WA DER) Interim Guideline on the Assessment and Management of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), February 2016 in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) Contaminated Land Management Guidelines No. 2 – Hierarchy and Application in New Zealand of Environmental Guideline Values, October 2011 (CLMG No.2).


However, in January 2018 the Heads of the Environment Protection Agencies of Australia and New Zealand (HEPA) released the PFAS National Environment Management Plan (PFAS NEMP). While this guidance has only, as yet been endorsed for use in Australia; given this document supersedes the WA DER guidance, this document will now likely become the primary reference for PFAS assessment in New Zealand.


As a rapidly developing field, our understanding of PFAS is constantly evolving as new research and guidelines from regulatory authorities around the world are published. Since circa-2013 PFAS have been considered to be an emerging contaminant of concern; but with recent research suggesting persistence in the environment, and as yet fully understood potential risks to human health; it can be concluded that PFAS has emerged as a contaminant of concern.


4Sight remain committed to providing the most efficient investigation strategies in relation to PFAS, taking advantage of innovative cutting-edge technologies to provide the best project outcomes. 4Sight staff have conducted PFAS investigations at Site in both New Zealand and Australia, and are well versed in the intricate sampling protocols required for sampling potentially PFAS affected sites.


For more information on 4Sight’s PFAS investigation services, please get in touch with James Blackwell: jamesb@4sight.co.nz  or Nigel Mather: nigelm@4sight.co.nz.    
 

National Environmental Standard for Telecommunication Facilities 2016

An updated and expanded National Environmental Standard for Telecommunication Facilities (NESTF) was gazetted on the 24 November 2016, and will come into effect on 1 January 2017. 4Sight has been working closely with the Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) and the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to develop and refine the new regulations. 4Sight's ongoing involvement in this project is based on our proven experience in central government policy development, practical planning experience and knowledge of the telecommunication industry through our resource consent acquisition work for 2degrees across New Zealand. 

The process for developing the 2016 NESTF has taken a number of years, and responds to increasing demands for greater mobile services and technologies and modern forms of telecommunication facilities. The 2016 NESTF will support the development of a wider range of telecommunications infrastructure, particularly Ultra-Fast Broadband, the Rural Broadband Initiative and fourth generation mobile infrastructure, through permitting a wider range of telecommunication facilities in locations inside and outside road reserves. 

A key focus of 4Sight’s role in this project has been to ensure the NESTF achieves its objective of ‘providing greater national consistency for a wider range of telecommunications infrastructure and locations’ while ensure environmental effects are appropriately managed through appropriate conditions and allowing for local control to be retained in areas with particular significance or value. This process has benefited from an exposure draft process which involved working with a Technical Advisory Group comprised of industry and local government representatives to test and refine the regulations. 

The focus of 4Sight is now on developing a comprehensive user guide for the NESTF to help explain the technical regulations in a more concise and understandable manner and to facilitate the efficient and effective roll out of the NESTF early next year.

Here is the press release for more information or you are welcome to get in touch with Jerome Wyeth for more information.

Driftwood

We consent all sorts of interesting things from tree houses to giant inflatable gorillas, but a few eyebrows were raised initially in the Monday team meeting around getting a consent to remove and dispose of drift wood from Gisborne’s main beach. 

It’s a bit easier to see why if you watch this drone footage. You can see the extent of the problem, following the recent floods, and imagine its effect on the seaside town especially leading into summer. All this driftwood damages the dune system and prevents the vegetation establishing which in turn exacerbates coastal erosion. But what do you do with it? Smoke and ash from burning this much driftwood would be a major problem so close to an urban area.

The good news is GDC and the Kopututea Trust working with DOC have identified an area within Kopututea, an area owned by the Trust and shared by the wider community as a public reserve, where the driftwood can be deposited. The intention is that this will then be used as part of an overall restoration project to establish plantings which will enhance the area. However, the proposed works will trigger a range of rules under the Combined Regional and Land Plan, the proposed Freshwater Plan, the Air Quality Plan and Gisborne Coastal Environment Plan. Whilst this may seem inconvenient to some, these rules actually ensure protection of our environment and making sure the public can still use and enjoy this valued coastal environment to its fullest. Also it’s a painless process when you have great planners. We are helping GDC obtain all the necessary approvals to get this done, watch this space. You can also see a coastal walkway we recently consented for them.