Picton’s toxic gas use needs complete ban

Cancellation by Port Marlborough of an export log shipment from Picton that was due to be fumigated with toxic methyl bromide comes as good news for the Soil & Health Association.

Soil & Health spokesperson, Steffan Browning, who raised the methyl bromide issue in Picton in March, and has been campaigning since to have the fumigation discontinued or have the toxic ozone depleting gas recovered rather than released into the atmosphere, is concerned however that the language used by the Port Company and also Marlborough’s Mayor Alistair Sowman, does not suggest that release of toxic gases will never occur again.

“The political hot potato is just being taken off the boil during the local body election process, but is still on simmer until it is banned altogether.”

The highly toxic methyl bromide gas from export log fumigation has previously been vented from Port Marlborough’s Shakespeare Bay facility, close to Picton’s wharves and township, without a resource consent or adequate monitoring.

“Unusually, the Marlborough District Council resource management plans appear to not require a resource consent for the discharge to the environment of the toxic fumigant,” said Browning.

“Last week’s Picton public meeting, organised by Peter Beech of local environmental group Guardians of the Sounds and supported by Soil & Health, showed the Marlborough District Council and the Council owned Port Company that the community’s level of tolerance to local toxic fumigation was at an end.”

“Soil & Health and Guardians of the Sounds will persist in getting release of methyl bromide and its similarly toxic alternative, phosphine gas, permanently stopped in Picton.”

“Soil & Health is determined that other sites will follow, and that the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) also urgently reassesses methyl bromide’s use, as this ozone depleting neurotoxin should not be released anywhere, let alone near communities throughout New Zealand.”

“The log exporters concern about economic impact must be a very big second to the health risks posed to the community and the damage to the ozone layer, particularly relevant to Marlborough which has New Zealand’s highest level of melanoma.”

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 chronic exposure associated with a range of neurological effects.

Methyl bromide use is limited internationally due to health risks and its serious ozone depleting properties.

“A public statement is now needed from the Port Company and Mayor, that release of fumigants into the atmosphere at Picton will stop permanently,” said Browning

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

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