An Environment Court decision blocking the use of a toxic chemical at the Port of Tauranga has prompted a call for a review of its ongoing use nationwide.
Envirofume Limited's application to use methyl bromide to fumigate logs at the port was rejected by the court on the basis that it could harm people's health and contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer.
The court also concluded that methyl bromide should only be used to fumigate logs in dedicated areas designed to recapture the gas.
The Green Party is calling on WorkSafe and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undertake an urgent review of the ongoing use of methyl bromide at all ports across the country.
“Workers and residents near the ports of Napier, Tauranga and Whangarei are potentially being exposed to methyl bromide as there is limited recapture of the gas in those places,” says Green Party pesticide and biosecurity spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“We need both WorkSafe and the EPA to do their job, stop the unsafe release of this toxic gas, and protect both workers and the environment.”
Methyl bromide is already in use at the Port of Tauranga by Mount Maunganui biosecurity treatment company Genera Limited.
Chief executive Mark Self says buffer zones and recapture facilities are in place and methyl bromide levels are measured at the boundary.
He says the company has invested heavily in alternatives to methyl bromide and recapture technology.
“We've developed a world-first gas liquid recapture facility and we're using that at the port and building capability so we are able to recapture all fumigants by 2020 as required by the EPA.”
Methyl bromide gas is odourless and colourless and, if inhaled, can increase the risk of cancers and cause neurological disorders.