Recent spikes in sulphur dioxide gas levels in the Mount Maunganui industrial area are being investigated by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
Increased levels of the gas are recorded by air monitoring equipment located behind the Hewletts Road industrial area which has has been in place since September 2015.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is investigating spikes in sulphur dioxide gas levels in the Mount Maunganui industrial area. Photo: File
Pollution prevention manager Nick Zaman says the monitoring equipment recorded unacceptably high sulphur dioxide levels on two occasions in recent weeks.
“We’ve had both readings independently verified,” says Nick. “We know there are a number of sulphur dioxide sources in the area, which include industrial plants manufacturing fertilisers and processing chemicals as well as shipping and train activities.
“We’ve requested monitoring information from local industries to identify any potential breaches of resource consents conditions and will be treating any breaches very seriously. We are currently investigating to identify what has caused these National Environmental Standards exceedances.”
The maximum upper limit set by NES for sulphur dioxide which must not be exceeded is 570 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a one hour average.
The two verified breaches were above the upper limits, spiking at 628 and 751 micrograms of sulphur dioxide per cubic meter over a one hour average on the 27 February and 5 March respectively. The Ministry for the Environment has also been notified.
Sulphur dioxide is an air pollutant that can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.
Exposure to sulphur dioxide affects people differently. Many people will not experience any symptoms or health effects at these levels of exposure while some may experience coughing, wheezing or chest tightness.
Asthmatics, young children, the elderly and those with long-term chest conditions are more likely to notice symptoms, with the effects likely to be short term, lasting minutes or hours after the exposure.
Air monitoring equipment is operated by an independent provider to supply air quality information to Regional Council staff and other interested parties. Air quality data is recorded every 10 minutes and issues an alert if contamination levels exceed acceptable limits.
These air quality limits are set by the National Environmental Standards (NES) to protect human health and the environment Monitoring of air quality behind the Hewletts Road industrial area has been in place since September 2015.
The Pollution Prevention Hotline has received nineteen complaints in this area in the last 12 months.
In March 2015 Ballance Agri-Nutrients was fined $60,000 for a sulphur dioxide release in May 2014. The fertiliser manufacturer was prosecuted by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council after Port of Tauranga workers suffered the ill-effects of the plant’s discharge.
The monitoring station at the Whareroa Marae