Air purifiers hope to help asthmatics deal with Bromley's 'putrid smell'

Wed, Sep 20
Lecia and Connor McCallum among the supply of air purifiers at Bromley School.

A Christchurch parent believes her asthmatic son will spend more time in class after his primary school was donated dozens of air purifiers to help "clear the air".

It comes as residents in the eastern suburb of Bromley grapple with the ongoing "putrid smell" in the area, linked to both the city council-owned compost and wastewater treatment plants.

Extensive criticism has been laboured at the council over the problem, with complaints about worsening respiratory symptoms, headaches and mental health issues.

Extensive criticism has been laboured at the council over the problem.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has gifted 40 air purifiers to Bromley School, to help pupils with asthma and their families.

Some parents began picking up their purifiers from the school on Tuesday.

Connor McCallum, 10, has chronic respiratory symptoms and autism. His mother, Lecia said she hoped an air purifier would result in him spending more time in class.

"He's more distressed when he's wheezy and worried if he's going to be able to breathe properly," she said.

"As a family it would be nice not to be tried, it would be nice not to be worried about what the night will be like, it would be nice to be able to sleep and it would be nice to be able to send him to school.

"Air quality here has been pretty awful."

Connor McCallum with the family's new air purifier.

Connor told RNZ it was tough for both him and some of the other children to cope. "The smell is bad, not very good and not very nice."

Fellow parent Nicole Williams said her son Bentley had been absent from school "70% of this year".

"He's really asthmatic, he's also had Covid, it's just crazy, we're just constantly at the doctors.

"Getting him here is a mission."

She hoped trips to the doctor would become less frequent.

"Waking up during the night coughing and viral infections, hopefully that'll stop."

Bromley School principal Scot Kinley said ongoing air quality issues had taken a toll on teachers and pupils.

"Multiple students have been forced to stay home due to health issues arising from the foul-smelling air. It's simply unacceptable that our community has had to put up with this."

Bromley School principal Scot Kinley.

Forty pupils have asthma at the school, accounting for 10% of the school roll, Kinley said.

Christchurch residents are being asked to decide what they want to do with their green waste over the next couple of years while a new compost plant is being built, with options including sending it straight to the dump or shipping it off to the North Island.

There were five options out for public consultation. They included sending all green waste to the landfill, reducing the amount processed at Bromley and sending some to the landfill, partially treating the material at Bromley and then sending it elsewhere, or doing all the processing elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the city council is still negotiating with its insurer following the catastrophic fire at the wastewater treatment plant.

The blaze badly damaged the plant's two trickling filters in November 2021, affecting the quality of effluent flowing into the system.

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ chief executive Letitia Harding said she hoped the air purifiers would help affected families.

"Every breath matters, especially for our children. So when we learned that students were struggling with worsening asthma symptoms because of the stench, we knew we had to help.

"Managing daily symptoms is challenging enough for our children - they should not have to endure this added burden."

Harding said the response from local authorities was also a factor in the decision to gift the devices.

"Maybe council needs to move their offices down into [Bromley] school for a couple of months and see how they find it."

By Adam Burns of rnz.co.nz


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