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Dangerous health risks at Popua landfill are obvious Featured

Green canals alongside the central area of the rehabilitated Tukutonga dumpsite which is being turned into a "park". 26 May 2017. Green canals alongside the central area of the rehabilitated Tukutonga dumpsite which is being turned into a "park". 26 May 2017.

13 June, 2017.

Washington, USA

 I cannot over emphasize the potential gravity of development in and around the reclaimed Popua landfill. I recommended this area not be used for a landfill from its onset in the 1980's. I can't say how extremely disturbed I was to see the area around it now being developed as a children's park that I was told was being funded as a Chinese gift.

I was further exasperated to see the channel excavated to the lagoon. These actions without well-considered and detailed engineering and public health evaluations were extremely unfortunate. During my visit early this year, on her inquiry, I shared my concerns with 'Ana 'Akauola [Ministry of Health] on this and a number of other public health issues, [and] she then with the Director of Health.

I have been involved with managing some of the largest toxic and hazardous waste cleanups in the USA where cleanup levels of toxic and hazardous substances were substantially driven by carcinogenic risk assessments. I am extremely aware of the health risks the Popua landfill could potentially pose. Notwithstanding Mary Fonua's well-considered and insightful comments [Matangi Tonga June 6: Questions raised as secretive Va'epopua development ignores lagoon pollution warnings], especially those regarding zinc and lead, I think the health issues could be far more dangerous, especially to children.

From my near 40-years involved with public health in Tonga in one way or another, it appears to me that the incidence of cancer in Tonga has greatly increased, including among a number of close relatives in my wife's immediate family. I am further convinced that this could well be because of increased and increasing exposure to hazardous chemicals, of which there are many in Tonga. Most are entirely uncontrolled, unmeasured, and in the case of cancer and other diseases, appear often not medically diagnosed for. Indeed, Tonga does not currently have the capability to quantify these issues.

It should be abundantly obvious that of the many container loads of imports of all kinds comes across Queen Salote Wharf every week, practically none ever leaves the island. It is my considered opinion for a number of technical reasons that Tongatapu, in particular, has well exceeded its absorptive capacity for many of these foreign materials. This will have serious consequences if it has not already.

The above is so obvious. Isn't anyone looking???

Richard Stoll

Environmental engineer

My experience in Tonga: former engineer for the Tonga Water Board; World Health Organization in charge of the National Sanitation Project; various consultancies in Tonga; Project manager for the reconstruction of the Nuku'alofa central business district; assisted my brother-in-law, Paul Karalus in coordinating both Japanese and Chinese aid projects. I know the Popua area very well. I married a Tongan. Proficient in the Tongan language. I have graduate degrees in environmental engineering and aquatic biology.

1 comment

  • Aisea Matiu
    Aisea Matiu Wednesday, 14 June 2017 20:05 Comment Link

    There you are 'Akilisi and your dodgy government, specifically in view of the scientifically-led expert opinion of Popua landfill as having dangerous health risks for the people of Tonga, obviously carved in black and white, without any grey areas in between?

    What the hell is really going on here? Where the hell are the principles of good governance, viz., transparency, accountability, equality and justice you 'Akilisi and your so-called but unofficial Temo Party somehow obsessively but excessively made out to be what and who you and your Temo Party really are, which is now clearly not what and who you really are.

    Is not the inability of both you 'Akilisi and your Temo Party for bridging the preaching of good governance, on the one hand, as opposed to doing the very opposite, on the other, a sign of a sick, unhealthy mind, which is truly unworthy of being a leader of a country. Many such sick, unhealthy minds as Hitler have gone down in history as true dictators!

    Given the dangerous level of toxicity associated with Popua landfill, why the hell developing it a public part and golf course, when the limited resources from there could have easily gone into upgrading Teufaiva Stadium for the one-off Tonga-Welsh test rugby match now ashamedly shifted to Auckland, not to mention the possibility of proudly hosting Super Rugby matches, also successfully hosted by both Fiji and Samoa. All we need to do is sitting and counting our many blessings!

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