Category Archives: Methyl Bromide

Methyl Bromide Health Hazards

An email from a UK based previous Safety Officer for Port Marlborough stated his concerns about being unable to prevent, or make safe the use of the gas, while living close to the wharf. He says 6 persons who also lived in that area, now have cancer, and his wife also died from cancer.

It raises the very valid question of are the two connected?

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ERMA: Hearing dates set for reassessment of methyl bromide

Dates have now been set for five hearings to be held in May 2010 as part of the next stage of the methyl bromide reassessment process.

The period for commenting on the application for reassessment closed in late February 2010. A total of 92 submissions were received. ERMA New Zealand is now reviewing submissions. Once done, the staff will prepare an update paper for the decision-making committee of the Environmental Risk Management Authority to consider. This will include a summary of submissions and any further relevant information, as well as the staff’s recommendation in light of submissions.

Some of the issues raised in the submissions include buffer zones, modelling, monitoring, recapture and public health concerns.

Approximately 40 per cent of submitters asked to speak at a hearing.

The hearings are set down for:

  • Monday, 17 May in Wellington;
  • Tuesday, 18 May in Nelson;
  • Wednesday, 19 May in Picton/Blenheim;
  • Thursday, 20 May in Tauranga; and
  • Friday, 21 May in Auckland.

Venues and times will be confirmed shortly and submitters who have asked to speak at a hearing will be contacted to make arrangements.

After the hearings, the Environmental Risk Management Authority will consider all information put before it, from all sources, before making its decision on future use of the substance.

The decision could approve the use of methyl bromide for some or all of its current uses, add stricter controls, or prohibit some or all of its uses.

A final decision is expected in mid to late 2010.

For further information on the reassessment, visit the homepage at
http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/hs/methyl%20bromide/index.html

Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearings, though only submitters may speak.

If you would like to attend a hearing, please register your interest with Samantha Smith, samantha.smith@ermanz.govt.nz, 04 918 4880 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 04 918 4880 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, to ensure you are advised of venues and times.

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Methyl Bromide: Maritime Union wants answers

Press Release: Maritime Union of New Zealand
1st Feb 2010
Maritime Union wants answers to Government involvement in Methyl Bromide organization

The Maritime Union has attacked comments by the group Stakeholders in Methyl Bromide Reduction (STIMBR) which downplays valid concerns about the use of the poison gas.

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood has condemned a statement from STIMBR (1 February 2010) entitled “Gas links with disease unfounded” that asserts there is no proof that methyl bromide is connected with motor neuron disease.

Mr Fleetwood says there is no proof as yet, but important new research into the health hazards of methyl bromide has detected possible links and there has been criticism of past investigations.

“On the one hand STIMBR is claiming no one knows what causes motor neuron disease, yet the very reason that further research is being done is due to possible links. As responsible employers they should be encouraging any new findings that build on current limited knowledge. STIMBR also quote outdated research in their public statement.”

STIMBR is made up of businesses that have a direct financial interest in the use of methyl bromide, but until recently had Government representation and financial contributions.

Mr Fleetwood says he is very concerned that the Government has until recently been officially represented on what was clearly a partisan organization that appeared motivated by the interests of private businesses, and which had no representation of maritime workers.

“STIMBR is not an industry group, it’s an employers group, managers who sit in offices a safe distance from methyl bromide fumigation. It’s a public relations cookup to portray themselves as reducing methyl bromide when they are the beneficiaries of its use. What Government agencies were doing involved with STIMBR is a major concern and we will be approaching the Government on this matter.”

In the October 2009 STIMBR newsletter (http://www.stimbr.org.nz/STIMBRNewsletter8.pdf), the Chair Gordon Hosking noted that government departments had advised they would no longer be members of STIMBR but would seek observer status due to perceived conflict of interest and “will be discussed further by the management committee.”

The same newsletter lists as its first item under “Specific areas of progress” the achievement of “Protecting methyl bromide use”, which seems an odd area of progress for a group whose name is “Stakeholders in Methyl Bromide Reduction”. Are they protecting the use of Methyl Bromide or reducing the use of Methyl Bromide?

A May 2008 newsletter stated STIMBR were “pleased to acknowledge contributions to STIMBR from organisations with a keen interest in methyl bromide reduction, but who are non-users of the fumigant. Noted in our last newsletter were Biosecurity New Zealand, Ministry of Economic Development, Scion, and Crop and Food Research.”

New research is being carried out at Canterbury University where toxicology professor Ian Shaw has been reported as saying a link had been found which involved a reaction when mixing methyl bromide with a protective chemical found in human cells.

Dr Shaw has stated the study by the Nelson Medical Officer of Health should have looked further into the rate of port deaths from motor neuron disease which was many hundreds of times higher than normal.

Mr Fleetwood says that if it is proved in future research there is a link between methyl bromide and motor neuron disease, or any other illness, then the Maritime Union will be involved in any efforts to hold employers, Government and individuals (including STIMBR members) accountable and liable for any harm to workers.

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Methyl Bromide Protest in Picton and Blenheim

This report of the anti Methyl Bromide demonstrations in Picton and Blenheim first appeared in The Marlborough Express:

Protesters against the use of the toxic gas methyl bromide at Picton’s Shakespeare Bay urged the Marlborough District Council in a fiery exchange yesterday to suspend use of the gas and put in place a robust air plan.

The council, which owns the port, instead went ahead with its plan to delay any decision until the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) completed a national review of the controversial gas.

ERMA has indicated the review will be ready for public consultation next month, with a decision due next year.

Methyl bromide is used at ports around New Zealand as a quarantine and pre-shipment fumigant to kill pests. It is an ozone depleter and its use in New Zealand as a fumigant for soil has been phased out.

Its use at Port Marlborough has been steadily condemned and yesterday protesters took their anger to council after demonstrations in Picton and Blenheim.

About 100 protesters gathered at midday, many holding placards asking the council and Port Marlborough “merchants of death” to “stop poisoning our workers and families”.

Many of them then travelled to Blenheim to demonstrate in Seymour Square, opposite the council’s offices, for an hour before the 3pm council meeting.

About 50 protesters then attended the council meeting, where a fiery exchange took place between Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman and Soil and Health Association spokesman Steffan Browning.

In an address interrupted by jeers from protesters, Mr Sowman said he understood the concerns over use of the gas, but council had “no real evidence” of any danger to people from the fumigation.

The council was relying on the authority’s expertise to make a decision, he said.

In the meantime, Port Marlborough would continue its “robust monitoring” of gas levels.

Mr Browning said the council was a taking the easy option.

The mayor then tried to silence Mr Browning, who had broken meeting protocol by moving from the public seating to the councillors’ bench to speak.

Mr Sowman told him the meeting was not a chance for him to have a say.

“Do not worry about protocol,” Mr Browning said.

“Let me speak. You’re copping out … Follow Nelson’s lead, we want a moratorium [on methyl bromide fumigations].”

Stiff provisions in the Nelson City Council’s air-quality plan resulted in fumigation company Genera taking an appeal to the Environment Court, and that in turn led to much tighter controls around the use of methyl bromide at Port Nelson.

Councillor Gerald Hope successfully raised a motion that allowed five protesters a right of reply to the mayor on what he called a “highly charged and emotive issue”.
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Environmental group Guardians of the Sounds spokesman Peter Beech said the council should suspend fumigations until Marlborough had “a robust air plan” that addressed all spray drift issues.

“If they ban methyl bromide they’ll [the log fumigators] just switch to another poisonous gas in 18 months’ time … This is wider than just methyl bromide.”

He said Shakespeare Bay needed an airtight facility, similar to one at the Nelson port, that captured the gas in filters and either recycled or destroyed it, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere.

The council had vested interests in forestry and was putting these interests ahead of the Picton community’s health and safety, said Mr Beech.

“We have the scenario of one council governing two towns. If Blenheim’s interests override Picton’s … there is no way Picton can get adequate representation.”

Protester Jim Lutherus said he was exposed to the gas while working at Nelson’s port and now had various health problems that he believed were related to that exposure.

“This year they released 10 tonnes over us. A few years down the track the kids could be sick. It is a bloody serious thing,” he said.

Port Marlborough health and safety officer Patrick Burdon said the port’s rules on the use methyl bromide were five times stricter than most authorities’, with one part per million set as the allowable amount of methyl bromide released to air.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/news/2878450/Methyl-bromide-activists-fire-up

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Methyl Bromide Draft Code of Practice for Port Marlborough

Proposed by The Guardians of the Sounds

Site Specific Code of Practice for Use of Methyl Bromide in Shakespeare Bay

  1. That no release of fumigant gas shall be released to atmosphere when there is evidence of a cold inversion layer present in the form of cloud cover over Port Shakespeare and Picton that would allow for toxic gas to rise, reach the ceiling and be swept by any North west winds over the Picton community.
  2. That wind socks and electronic wind monitors to tell of wind strength and direction, to be erected around the log yard that needs to be checked before fumigations are commenced. And during fumigations if wind direction should change.
  3. Fumigant gas not to be released in very still conditions to protect health and safety of fumigators, port workers and employees of businesses adjacent to port boundary. In still conditions the gasses may linger or go to ground.
  4. Fumigation not to occur if there are North West Winds that could blow a plume of gas over town.
  5. Temperature needs to factor in conditions of release also, not to be released under a set temperature. Should it be allowed to be released on a rainy day that is cool with no sun to help flash it off with still conditions ?
  6. No fumigation when there are ferries or cruise ships are berthing or tied at a berth
  7. That all fumigation workers must wear protective clothing gas masks and gloves approved for use for handling or exposure to toxic fumigants. Gas masks/ filters to be used only once.
  8. All port workers to vacate port yard while fumigations are being undertaken and not to return until monitoring assures the supervisor that there is zero risk of exposure to said fumigant.
  9. Fumigations to be monitored by a company that is totally independent of Genera or Port Marlb. NMHD to be notified of any release of fumigant to atmosphere.
    The decision made on whether climatic conditions and wind and weather is suitable needs to be expert in this field, but independent !
  10. Not sure what your monitoring regime is, obviously you monitor around the yard and around boundary, but what about the lookout above the port, (outside boundary ) because there is an obvious risk that as the gas rises the wind could blow a plume onto hills above port and threaten public !
    What about monitoring down on the big wharf, terminal, fore shore, Nelson Square.
    It needs to be more than just the yard boundary fence.
  11. Owners of houses in residential areas in Port shakespear and on hills in vicinity of port to be notified, along with boat owners on vessels in shakespear bay. To be notified of fumigations
  12. Query !!!!! concerned about risk to workers in businesses along West Shore, would it be better to fumigate outside of work hrs ?
  13. I suspect that the heat of the sun helps flash the gas off to atmosphere ideal time frame would probably be in early evening after 6.00 pm.
  14. Would it be possible for Port Marlb to notify Picton Community of fumigations through Radio Marlborough and Marlb Radio VHF & Port company operators on Ch19.
  15. That vehicle access should be denied to public around the west shore while fumigations are being carried out.
  16. No Fumigants should be allowed to be stored on Port Marlborough premises unless it is in a specially designed building that complies with HSNO regulations that Port Marlb have a resource consent for.
  17. Water quality. Methyl Bromide is eco toxic, so when wharves/ships holds are washed down the discharge must be filtered to prevent toxins entering marine environment. Fresh water streams in shakespear bay must be monitored after fumigations so to shell fish beds.
  18. Policy 1.1 of the Marlborough Sounds resource management plan 17.2.3 need to be adhered to.
  19. Port supervisors to work with MDC staff to set up an up to date Hazardous screening programme. Keeping good data/records of fumigations eg amount of fumigant used per tonnage, when, where, how often.
Posted in Forestry, Methyl Bromide, Sounds Management | 1 Comment

Regional Policy Statement 2008

Kia Ora ,

These are thoughts on the need to develop long term strategic planning for

Totaranui Queen Charlotte Sounds.

I have limited this submission to Totaranui, QCS , My knowledge of Hioere,Pelorus is limited and judgements on its future is best left to persons who are better aquainted than myself, the only suggestion is that Tenneson Inlet Worlds End and d’Urville, Is French Pass should be made into MPA’s and don’t allow those wonderful big outer Sounds inlets like Port Gore and Titirangi be made into AMA areas, it is their seclusion that makes them so special don’t allow them to be fulled up to the eyes with aquaculture

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