Methyl Bromide Fumigation Supported By Marlborough District Council

Marlborough District Council company Port Marlborough’s stance and supposed tough conditions on methyl bromide fumigation at Picton has been a carefully staged play by those involved and the fumigation remains as dangerous as ever, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ, which wants such fumigations stopped immediately.

Port Marlborough has announced this week the resumption of methyl bromide export log fumigation at its Shakespeare Bay facility adjacent to Picton Harbour. Previous fumigations had been stopped in September 2007 following public protest and business considerations by the Port. The ship Kang Shen currently being loaded with logs for India is due to be fumigated in the weekend.

“It is commendable that the Port Company has set one part per million standard for monitoring outside the facility and set a bond on the fumigators, however they know full well that due to woeful inadequacies in monitoring and the lack of modelling, that the bond will never be collected,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Port Marlborough, log exporter Zindia, fumigator Genera, but most of all the Marlborough District Council, have let the community of Picton down and are setting the scene for continued long term fumigations.”

“One part per million (1ppm) was set in Nelson* as a beyond port boundary threshold following an extensive Environment Court process. However that was set on the basis of predictive modelling and on the understanding that very limited amounts of gas would be released at any one time. Most fumigation at Port Nelson releases only a residue following post fumigation capture of the bulk of the ozone depleting and neurotoxic gas. Picton deserves nothing less.”

“Without modelling, the route of the released gas is unknown and monitoring at fence level around Port Marlborough is almost guaranteed to miss the invisible gas plume. Where a plume may descend on any given day is unknown and Port Marlborough’s single monitoring device and few borrowed ones can’t even begin the task of ensuring safety.”

“The statement from Marlborough District Council, that they will impose conditions on the use of fumigants such as methyl bromide at Picton’s port, when it drafts the new Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan, is an empty statement, as this is years away.” said Mr Browning.

“Of course the Council will impose conditions in a few years time. What Council won’t have meaningful air safety plans by then? There are tools in the RMA that would allow a council with resolve to stop the fumigation now.”

“The Health Board’s Ed Kiddle reported statement yesterday that the Picton situation is different from Nelson due to Port distance from the town also lacks credibility. Modelling in Nelson showed the large distance that gas may go there and is the background to the 1ppm level set. Modelling has not occurred in Picton and almost definitely would show such unpredictability that all fumigation would have to be using post fumigation capture technology.”

“The complicity by those involved in this activity is disturbing. Marlborough’s Mayor and councillors, Port directors, and their management, and the financially blinkered log exporter and fumigator, need to reconsider their performance and review immediately their decision.”

“Beyond the health of the local environment, community and visitors the Marlborough District Council needs to reflect on its international responsibilities and its marketing image.”

“What an irony that in a region with some of the highest levels of melanoma in the world that release to the atmosphere of tonnes of ozone depleting methyl bromide could be considered. Sweltering under a recent blazing Marlborough sun following the largest hole in the ozone layer ever recorded Marlborough District Council and Port Marlborough again allowed methyl bromide fumigation of export logs.”

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Methyl bromide (CH3Br) is an odourless, colourless gas, used as a pre-shipment (QPS) fumigant pesticide that kills all pests and is extremely toxic to humans. Human exposure to methyl bromide has potentially serious acute impacts on the central nervous system and internal organs that can be fatal, with a range of neurological and cancer causing effects associated with chronic exposure. Methyl bromide use is limited internationally due to health risks and its serious ozone depleting properties, although due to log exports a 300% increase in its use in New Zealand occurred from 2001 – 2007.

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