Wellington’s methyl bromide log fumigation must stop immediately

posted in: Health, Media Releases

The Soil & Health Association is appalled that large volumes of highly toxic methyl bromide gas from fumigation of export logs is being vented across Wellington’s Westpac stadium, cruise ships, ferries, Marae, schools, Wellington Railway Station, and Parliament Buildings.

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.

“Last week’s export log fumigation, just through the fence from busy Waterloo Quay, and less than 100 metres from Westpac Stadium, was completed just ahead of the Sevens, but the gas is being released across the public and workers in an uncoordinated and reckless way,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning. “Cruise ships with up to 1200 passengers have been berthed just metres from log fumigation.”

“When I observed fumigation last week, there were absolutely no warning notices, and car and rail traffic flow into Wellington is not halted as the fumigant is released for dispersal. Dispersal follows hours of fumigation, by tarpaulins being towed off log stacks or containers.”

“Depending on wind direction, in the relatively calm conditions experienced last Thursday, the gas could easily have remained 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. With no air modelling for the Port and casual control by the fumigators Genera, everybody in the proximity is at risk.”

“Methyl bromide use is limited internationally due to health risks and its serious ozone depleting properties, and last weeks 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.”

“Huge increases of ozone depleting methyl bromide to the atmosphere, makes a mockery of clean green New Zealand’s commitment to the Montreal Protocol, the international agreement on reducing Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Not having a phase out strategy for methyl bromide makes forestry’s environmental footprint unsustainable.”

“Last week the Environment Court released an Interim Decision specifying very strict controls on fumigation at Port Nelson. Such controls extrapolated to Wellington would mean that fumigation so close to the public would need to be carried out in containment with ‘capture and destruction’ technology, not the reckless she’ll be right approach taken around the country at present,” said Mr Browning.

“Following Soil & Health and Guardians of the Sounds investigating the lack of precaution at Port Shakespeare, Picton, fumigation has stopped there and export logs from that Port are currently headed to Tauranga for fumigation. However the same fumigation company, Genera, is also the operator in Tauranga, and following alarming statistics of motor neurone disease among Nelson Port workers, much stricter controls including fumigant capture technology must be implemented around the country.”