ALERT !! Wellington’s air to be poisoned Sunday & Monday

posted in: Health, Media Releases

Soil & Health has been told by the Greater Wellington Regional Council that log fumigation using methyl bromide is to be carried out this weekend at Port Wellington.

“The fumigation due to begin late Sunday in preparation for the log ship Lodestar Forest, will release methyl bromide into the Wellington port surrounds particularly strongly on Monday,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Depending on the log destination and ambient temperature, fumigation may be anything from 12 – 24 hours in duration, and may be required to be released during daylight hours.”

“Fumigating company, Genera, even on best behaviour and following the port company CentrePort’s new Code of Practice, will still not comply with the Regional Plan. This log fumigation in Wellington should be stopped immediately.”

Soil & Health had previously raised the issue of fumigation with methyl bromide gas at the Port, adjacent to Wellington’s Waterloo Quay and the Stadium, and very close to ferries, schools and university, railway station, Parliament buildings and business district. The toxic fumigant gas is released into the air in large quantities from under tarpaulins after hours of log fumigation.

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 effects associated with chronic exposure.

“The fumigation is contradictory to a recent Environment Court decision in relation to Port Nelson which gave strict guidelines for exposure near passenger ships and public space under a ‘capture and destruction’ technology regime,” said Mr Browning. “Capture and destruction is light years ahead in safety than the archaic methods used in Wellington. Wellington releases all gas to air without any filtering or certainty of where the toxin is going.”

“This week’s fumigation does not comply with the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Air Plan, which states that fumigation is a Permitted Activity as long as it does not cross the boundary. This calls for an immediate abatement notice, however Regional Council staff are hesitating around the risk and are waiting for meaningless monitoring results.”

An air scientist Dr Terry Brady* has said in response to monitoring questions regarding Port Marlborough’s Shakespeare Bay, “The consensus among all air quality practitioners around the world is that computer dispersion modeling is the first step in assessing the possible exposure to an air contaminant. Monitoring may then be employed if it is required…

…The other problem is knowing where to put the monitor at any one time while the wind is moving the plume of MeBr around from one location to the next. Trying to monitor an invisible plume of MeBr with a hand held worker exposure meter is like trying to catch a mosquito with a bird net, completely worthless.”

“Dr Brady has added that even with slightly more sensitive equipment now available, the ability to find the gas plume is not resolved. An expert witness involved with the Port Nelson case has also dismissed monitoring as an unsatisfactory measure of risk,” said Mr Browning.

“This fumigation must be stopped before putting Wellington’s workers, residents and visitors at further risk, and making a mockery of clean green New Zealand’s centre of government.”

“Depending on wind direction and strength, the gas can easily remain concentrated for the less than 1km distance to Parliament, the Courts and surrounds, taking in the Wellington Bus Terminal and Railway Station on the way, or if seaward to any ships or recreationalists in the area. With no air modelling for the Port and casual control by the fumigating company Genera, everybody in the proximity is at risk.”

“Methyl bromide use is limited internationally due to health risks and its serious ozone depleting properties. The recent Environment New Zealand 2007 report skirts around the fact that there has been a more than 300% increase in New Zealand’s use of methyl bromide since 2001. There are satisfactory alternatives to the release of mehyl bromide gas.”