2 Feb 2004

Cook Islands seeks international help on high chromium levels

7:44 am on 2 February 2004

The Cook Islands has approached the World Health Organisation for guidance on how to deal with the high level of chromium found around Titikaveka.

The environment service director, Vaitoti Tupa, says it's premature to say that chromium is the sole cause of the problem, despite it being found in high quantities in the soil surrounding the college.

There have been calls for the soil to be dug up and removed but the Cook Islands news reports that there are also concerns that disturbing the area could make the problem worse.

An overseas expert is expected to arrive in Rarotonga in the next few days to formulate a solution to the problem.

Mr Tupa says testing has shown that the levels of chromium are almost five times higher than acceptable limits in some areas around the sports field in Titikaveka.

The Environment ministry says chromium was used to treat timber and could enter the soil that way; although untreated waste, such as that from a septic tank, can increase the levels.