Picton getting tonnes of toxic gas again

Two environmental organisations are calling for Port Marlborough and its owner the Marlborough District Council to make an immediate stop to the use of pre-shipment methyl bromide log fumigation at Picton’s Shakespeare Bay.

Fumigation of logs under tarpaulins is underway at Picton for the first time since September 2007, for deck loading on the log ship the Ideal Bulker. The ship’s hold is also to be fumigated with the highly toxic and ozone depleting methyl bromide gas in the next few days, when 3 tonnes of the gas will be released into the air.

Guardians of the Sounds and the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand believe the shipment, following one in February that used 4 tonnes of the neurotoxic gas in just the ship’s hold, is a snub to the health concerns of the Picton community and to New Zealanders concerned at the extreme effects on climate change by ozone depleting gases. The cold still conditions in Picton today are some of the least safe for release of methyl bromide. The Picton community and ferry travellers have not been informed of the current fumigation.

“The crude release of 3 tonnes of ozone depleting gas into the atmosphere this week in Picton is also in direct contrast to the European Parliament’s resolution of 25 March 2009, banning all uses of methyl bromide in less than a year, including those used for quarantine and pre-shipment,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Ozone depleting substances have a global warming potential up to 14,000 times greater than carbon dioxide. It is as if the Marlborough District Council and Port Marlborough had not heard of climate change or its seriousness, or really understand what the word toxic means.”

“In February we were led to believe by the log exporter Zindia, that there was to be just a single shipment of gas released without filtration,” said Guardians Chairperson Peter Beech.

“We are very disappointed, that in the face of persistent opposition from the people of Picton, concerned about the risks posed to their community’s health and safety by tonnes of extremely toxic gas released to the atmosphere, that Port Marlborough continues to agree to fumigations.”

“We hold Zindia the exporter, Genera the fumigation company, Port Marlborough and its owner Marlborough District Council, all to account. Considering the deaths of Nelson port workers by motor neurone disease attributed to methyl bromide fumigations, release to the air around Picton of that gas, that attacks the respiratory and nervous systems and body organs, and is carcinogenic, makes those responsible potentially merchants of death,” said Mr Beech.

“Following public outcry and an extensive Environment Court case in Nelson, with scientific modelling of where released gas might go, methyl bromide log fumigations without recapture of the gas, can no longer happen in Nelson,” said Mr Browning

“If Zindia is not able to operate its substandard fumigation in Nelson, then why in Picton? The answer lies with Marlborough District Council choosing to operate in the interests of commerce while gambling with the health and safety of its community and its environmental reputation.”

“The Council and its subsidiary Port Marlborough can stop the fumigation instantly. Port Marlborough has final sign off to any fumigation and does not need to accept fumigation on its property. They successfully stopped fumigation previously when other commercial imperatives linked with community concerns.”

“Strangely while almost all Marlborough District Councillors state opposition to the fumigations, they and the Mayor are failing to immediately correct the inadequate district air plans. Who is calling the shots in Council?”

“In keeping with Brand New Zealand’s Clean Green 100% Pure image, and Soil & Health’s vision of an Organic 2020, the release of toxic or ozone depleting gases must be stopped.”

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.

Picton Methyl Bromide History
Methyl bromide gas used for export log fumigation has been vented from Port Marlborough’s Shakespeare Bay facility in the past. This is close to Picton’s wharves and township and was halted in September 2007 following major public meetings organised by Guardians of the Sounds in opposition to the fumigation.

Motor Neurone Disease
An international motor neurone disease expert, Canterbury University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Shaw, in 2007 said that statistically it appeared the Port Nelson motor neurone disease rate was 25 times the international average. At least six port workers had died from the disease, which causes progressive muscular atrophy.

That number is potentially double with ex-Nelson port workers dying in other parts of NZ. Nelson may have the second highest motor neurone death rate in the world.

European Parliament Position

Beyond protecting the ozone layer, the reduction of ozone depleting substances also plays a significant role in fighting climate change. Ozone depleting substances have a global warming potential up to 14,000 times greater than carbon dioxide. Without the Montreal Protocol global greenhouse gas emissions would be 50% higher than they are today….


Steffan Browning
The Soil & Health Association of NZ
021 725655

Pete Beech
Guardians of the Sounds
0275 404407 (03) 5736891
p.beech@ xtra.co.nz

Brussels, 25 March 2009 – Commission welcomes agreement in Parliament on ozone layer
The Commission welcomes the vote today by the European Parliament that confirms the first reading agreement reached between Parliament and Council on reinforcing ozone legislation. The agreement comes less than a year after the Commission’s proposal was presented. In addition to updating current legislation on the protection of the ozone layer in light of scientific developments, the new regulation reinforces measures on the illegal trade and remaining uses of ozone depleting substances, including hydrochlorofluorocarbons. It also confirms the ban on the use of methyl bromide from early 2010 and bolsters measures on the management of banned substances in older products.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Ozone depleting substances have caused greater UV radiation to reach the earth, which endangers human beings and the environment. I welcome the European Parliament and the Council’s swift adoption of this new legislation which further restricts the use of these substances in the European Union. The new legislation should help the ozone layer recover from 2050 onwards and also contribute to our efforts to mitigate climate change.”

Building on the successes of the Montreal Protocol
International measures to protect the ozone layer in the stratosphere have had remarkable success. In the EU, current legislation – generally more ambitious than the 1987 Montreal Protocol that regulates these substances internationally – helped achieve a 99% phase-out of ozone-depleting substances, thus demonstrating its commitment to lead in the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

Beyond protecting the ozone layer, the reduction of ozone depleting substances also plays a significant role in fighting climate change. Ozone depleting substances have a global warming potential up to 14,000 times greater than carbon dioxide. Without the Montreal Protocol global greenhouse gas emissions would be 50% higher than they are today.

Strengthening EU legislation on the ozone
The legislation agreed on by the European Parliament today follows from the Commission’s proposal presented in August 2008. The aim of the new legislation is to adapt EU legislation on the protection of the ozone layer to the latest scientific developments and simplify it. It also strengthens the measures on the illegal trade and use of ozone depleting substances in the EU and introduces measures to prevent the dumping of these substances – or obsolete equipment relying on these substances – in developing countries.

The new legislation restricts further the use of some ozone depleting substances, such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and methyl bromide. It bans the use of virgin HCFCs from 2010 while allowing the use of recycled HCFCs under certain conditions until the end of 2014. Production of HCFCs for export – mainly to developing countries where the phase out is lagging by about ten years – would cease by 2020 in decremental steps and caps instead of the original deadline of 2025. It also mandates the Commission to adopt tougher provisions on ozone depleting substances trapped – or “banked” – in products such as insulation foams in buildings in addition to already existing obligations on the recovery and elimination of substances in air conditioners and refrigeration equipment.

Measures on methyl bromide will be tightened under the new ozone legislation. All uses of the substance will be banned by March 2010, including those used for quarantine and pre-shipment.

The legislation also expands the list of substances for which reporting is required, but that are not yet covered by the Montreal Protocol.

The discovery in the early 1980s of a significant decrease in the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere over the Antarctic led to governments agreeing in 1987 on a Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – the Montreal Protocol. Thus began the phasing-out of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) according to a set timetable.

By 2007 all 191 parties signatory to the protocol had reduced their use of ozone depleting substances by 95% from the base year. Industrialised countries achieved the highest results since developing countries were given a delayed timetable. In its 2007 report, the Montreal Protocol Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP) confirmed that the ozone layer is slowly recovering – but slower than projections – thanks to the control measures introduced by the Protocol.

As a result of international efforts scientists report that it is now possible for the ozone layer to fully recover sometime between 2050 and 2075. However, the scientists warned that a number of challenges remain to ensure this happens, particularly emissions from “banked” substances, exempted uses and new ozone depleting substances. The SAP expressed concerns about the growing production of HCFCs in developing countries. The parties to the protocol subsequently agreed in 2007 on an accelerated HCFC phase-out schedule.

More information:

Commission proposal: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ozone/review.htm

European Parliament legislative resolution of 25 March 2009 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on substances that deplete the ozone layer (recast) (COM(2008)0505 – C6-0297/2008 – 2008/0165(COD))

(12) In view of Commission Regulation (EC) No 2032/2003 of 4 November 2003 on the second phase of the 10-year work programme referred to in Article 16(2) of Directive 98/8/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the placing of biocidal products on the market, and amending Regulation (EC) No 1896/2000 (7) which banned the use of methyl bromide as a biocide by 1 September 2006, and Commission Decision 2008/753/EC which banned the use of methyl bromide as a plant protection product by 18 March 2010, the use of methyl bromide for quarantine and pre-shipment applications should also be banned by 18 March 2010.

Article 12

Quarantine and pre-shipment applications and emergency uses of methyl bromide

1. By way of derogation from Article 5(1), until 18 March 2010 , methyl bromide may be placed on the market and used for quarantine and for pre-shipment applications for treatment of goods for export provided that the placing on the market and use of methyl bromide are allowed respectively under Directive 91/414/EEC and Directive 98/8/EC as transposed by the Member State concerned.

Methyl bromide may only be used on sites approved by the competent authorities of the Member State concerned and, if economically and technically feasible, under the condition that at least 80 % of methyl bromide released from the consignment is recovered.

2. The calculated level of methyl bromide which undertakings place on the market or use for their own account in the period from 1 January 2010 to 18 March 2010 shall not exceed 45 ODP tonnes.

Each undertaking shall ensure that the calculated level of methyl bromide which it places on the market or uses for its own account for quarantine and pre-shipment applications shall not exceed 21 % of the average of the calculated level of methyl bromide which it placed on the market or used for its own account for quarantine and pre-shipment in the years 2005 to 2008.

3. In an emergency, where unexpected outbreaks of particular pests or diseases so require, the Commission, at the request of the competent authority of a Member State, may authorise the temporary production, placing on the market and use of methyl bromide. Such authorisation shall apply for a period not exceeding 120 days and to a quantity not exceeding 20 metric tonnes and shall specify measures to be taken to reduce emissions during use provided that the placing on the market and use of methyl bromide are allowed respectively under Directive 91/414/EEC and Directive 98/8/EC.

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