News release from Regional Councillor Paul Bruce
“CentrePort has moved to containment for its fumigation processes, but does not recapture the toxic gas, methyl bromide when used,” according to Regional Councillor Paul Bruce.
Councillor Bruce said that other ports such as Nelson were now using recapture technology, and it wasn’t good enough for CentrePort to continue with its use. “Contributing to ozone depletion is dark-ages behaviour, and worse still, workers and communities are being exposed to an invisible, odourless, tasteless, neurotoxic and carcinogenic compound.”
Professor Ian Shaw, Toxicologist and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Canterbury, investigated the use of methyl bromide at Nelson Port and found a strong correlation of motor neurone disease and the toxic gas. Six Nelson port workers died of motor neurone disease while it was in use. A cluster of deaths such as this is 25 times the international average for the general population.
Figures show that methyl bromide use has doubled in the past five years to 469 tonnes in 2011, which means that last year New Zealand destroyed 236 tonnes of ozone.
Blair O’Keefe, CEO CentrePort, said that they had stopped the practice of fumigating logs under tarpaulins or in ship holds.
O’Keefe claimed that recapture technology was still too expensive and CentrePort would only move to alternatives to methyl bromide when they became available.
Government and industry have jointly given $6 million to the Crown forestry research institute Scion to develop alternatives to the wood fumigant methyl bromide. Steffan Browning, Green Party primary industries spokesperson, said that the potential development of alternatives is not an excuse for still allowing this toxic and ozone depleting gas to be released directly into the atmosphere when effective recapture technology exists.
“Recapture technology is practical, available and effective, so Government and Local Government inaction to require it is pure negligence,” Councillor Bruce concluded.