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Picton Methyl Bromide Gas Release Risky Again

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Steffan Browning
Steffan Browning

The Picton community was tonight again at risk of methyl bromide fumigation gas exposure, as log fumigators in Shakespeare Bay released tons of the neurotoxic gas with light breeze flowing onto Picton according to eyewitnesses.

Logs in the hold of the 170m ship Pontonostos and up to 20 stacks of wharfside logs have been fumigated with the highly toxic gas over the last 24 hours.

With an absence of air modelling to identify the direction of the invisible gas plume being released throughout the evening, Soil & Health Association spokesperson Steffan Browning monitored the activity from the port lookout and followed Port Marlborough's Live Weather website. (1) Winds were light and predominantly from the north west passing the fumigation site through the Cook Strait ferry terminals, harbour and rail yards into Picton township.

Local environmental group Guardians of the Sounds and the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand have led calls for the halt or recapture of methyl bromide fumigation in Picton and are members of the The Coalition against the use of Methyl Bromide which protested in Picton, Wellington and Tauranga recently as part of the Trade Unions Workers Memorial Day. This year there was particular reference to the men who had died from motor neurone disease in Nelson following exposure to methyl bromide fumigant at Port Nelson.

"I am concerned about the potential cumulative effect from these repeat fumigations on our Picton community," said Guardians of the Sounds chairman Pete Beech. "Tonights fumigation is to be repeated for another log ship the Duncan Bay waiting to dock."

"The deaths of the seaman in the hold of the log ship at Marsden Point today, whether caused by methyl bromide gas or not, reminds us of the deadly risks associated with this gas, given that it is tasteless, odourless and invisible and being heavier than air is known to linger."

"With no odour, the people of Picton and workers have no idea whether they are exposed to the fumigant gas," said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning. "We do know that the monitoring for Port Marlborough is not likely to detect the majority of the gas plume as air modelling has not occurred."

"One Picton resident who has experienced ill health following fumigations moved through to Blenheim for the night to avoid the fumigant. He is also protesting the Marlborough District Council's poor handling of the methyl bromide issue locally."

"Once again the so called independent monitoring company was employing fumigation staff to check monitoring devices on Port Shakespeare's fences. This is a direct conflict of interest."

"The tarpaulins were removed consecutively from log stacks in about a minute each releasing the gas in a sequence of more concentrated plumes while the fumigant gas in the ships hold was being released continuously through the evening."

Soil & Health will present to the Environmental Risk Management Authority's (ERMA) methyl bromide reassessment hearing in Wellington on May 17, and Pete Beech will speak to the Guardians of the Sounds submission in Picton May 19. Other hearings that week will be in Nelson, Tauranga and Auckland. Many submitters have called for the use of recapture technology for methyl bromide gas after fumigation.

Soil & Health aspires to an Organic 2020 where biosecurity can be protected without the release to the environment of toxic gases.

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