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04, May, 2009

Picton Fumigators May Have Failed Both Safety and Indian Requirements


Category: Soil & Health Association of NZ

The Marlborough District Council, Port Marlborough, log exporter Zindia and fumigator Genera, should all be deeply ashamed at the release of tonnes of highly toxic ozone destroying methyl bromide gas from Port Shakespeare last Friday night, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.

Soil & Health also questions whether the fumigations would have met the log destination country India’s phyto-sanitary requirements due to cold conditions over the relatively short fumigation period.

Port Marlborough allowed methyl bromide release in Picton from log stack fumigation tarpaulins and from the hold of the ship Ideal Bulker on Friday night in conditions and volumes that would not be permitted in neighbouring Port Nelson.

Nelson City Council’s air plan for the Port of Nelson was developed with the assistance of an Environment Court process with considerable scientific expert evidence including air modelling of where any released gas might go. Marlborough District Council could immediately make an air plan variation to match that of Nelson.

As supported by the Environment Court in Nelson and also the European Parliament, release of methyl bromide is based on the use of recapture technology. Europe is to ban use of methyl bromide by March 18 next year; with any emergency derogation using a fraction of current use, and at least 80% of any gas used being recaptured.

“Risking unacceptable levels of toxic gas exposure to inter-island shipping passengers and staff, by releasing hundreds of kilos of highly toxic gas at a time, is absolutely reckless,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning. “The fumigators said they would slowly release the gas but pulled some large covers off in close to a minute.”

“The neurotoxic gas was released during the night in cold conditions and variable breezes with no idea where the gas was actually going or who might be exposed to it, before its ultimate destination of damaging the ozone layer and aggravating climate change.”

“In the Nelson air plan, any release must happen during specific daylight hours, following recapture of most of the toxic gas, yet log exporter Zindia, fumigation company Genera and Port Marlborough and its owner the Marlborough District Council, in full knowledge of the Environment Court’s findings use effectively no standard in Picton. Monitoring around a few sites at the Port edges is a pot luck approach at detecting methyl bromide which could be going anywhere, and in no way relates to Nelson’s approach.”

“Port Nelson’s own fumigation Code of Practice has strict protocols on methyl bromide use and recapture of the majority of the gas, and there is no reason why Port Marlborough should have anything less. The recapture in Nelson is based on immediate human safety, yet another great danger globally is the effect of Zindia’s tonnes of methyl bromide on the ozone layer and climate change. Port Marlborough has yet to make its Code of Practice publicly available.”

“Zindia and Genera should be looked at very hard by the Indian Government as to whether they have met the pre-shipment phyto-sanitary requirements for logs being imported into India. India does not want some of New Zealand’s indigenous timber damaging insects and has strict requirements on timber treatment to ensure its biosecurity needs, yet it appears those requirements may have been treated as casually as the safety of Picton and the ozone layer.”

India - Logs to India require fumigation with methyl bromide at:

  • 48gm/m3at >21°Cfor24hours.
  • 56 gm/m3 at 16-20°C for 24 hours.
  • 64gm/m3at 11-15°C for 24 hours.
  • 72 gm/m3 at 10-11 °C for 24 hours.
Picton’s weather was bleak throughout the fumigation period and certainly fell below 10 degrees centigrade, making effective fumigation doubtful.

“As I sailed into Picton on the Interislander ferry Arahura, during methyl bromide fumigant release near 9-30pm on Friday evening, the breeze was coming through the cutting from the fumigated log ship and log stacks a few hundred metres away,” said Mr Browning. “My photographs and videos show the proximity to the ferry and the fluctuating windsock at the ferry terminal.”

“On arrival at about 10pm at the Shakespeare Bay observation point, that had no public warning signs, the raised ship hatches allowing methyl bromide fumigant release were visible, and soon after, two major log stacks had their covers removed within minutes. No warning signs, no gas recapture, no care, and an oscillating breeze.”

“The wind which was mostly southerly in Picton was much more variable and often very quiet at the observation point and photographs of the log ship’s flag support that. The complex Sounds valley system of land and sea make assumptions on released fumigant gas direction difficult, and as done in Port Nelson, air modelling must be undertaken ahead of new Marlborough District Council rules around fumigation. In the meanwhile all fumigation at Port Shakespeare must stop.

“Soil & Health has campaigned against methyl bromide fumigation for many years and now vindicated by the decisions of the European Parliament and findings of the Environment Court, will continue to campaign for a clean green Aotearoa New Zealand and against methyl bromide use. Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020.”

Contact:
Steffan Browning
Spokesperson
Soil & Health Association of NZ
021 725655
greeny25@xtra.co.nz