Esk St works paused after contaminants identified

Works to upgrade Esk St are on hold after the discovery of contaminated material.

Invercargill City Council is working to upgrade the inner city streets to create a more attractive city centre, starting with Esk and Don streets, which has included some significant earthworks.
The progress on Esk St was paused last week when an unknown substance was discovered amongst archaeological material and soil excavated during the works.

Council Group Manager Infrastructure Erin Moogan said the items were tested and early results had identified low levels of cyanide and a mix of heavy metals in the materials.

“Work has now been stalled as we undertake further investigations and testing but the community can feel confident that the identified contaminants in Esk St do not pose any risk to public health,” she said.

“The level of contaminants is low and we have strict health and safety measures in place. We’re really proud of how quickly and cautiously our teams have acted.

“Environmental consultants are on site to undertake further testing and examination and we are working through the processes and environmental consent requirements to ensure any contaminated materials are handled in the appropriate manner.”

It is likely that this process and subsequent procedural requirements will mean works will be significantly disrupted until some time in January, and that the project and milestone dates may also be extended due to this delay, Ms Moogan said.

“In a site such as Esk St, which is a long-established urban roadway, contaminants can sometimes be found in materials previously used to construct roading surfaces, such as coal tar, which was used to provide a hardwearing roading surface before the advent of asphalt.”

It is hoped the work will be able to commence as quickly as possible, she said.

“We understand this will cause some inconvenience to the community but it is important that we follow health and safety procedures and develop a robust management plan. We are grateful to our city retailers, businesses and community for their patience and understanding.”

More information will become available as further testing results are returned in the coming weeks.

For more information about the City Streets Upgrade, please visit