I met a port worker at our protest against the use of the highly toxic and ozone depleting fumigant Methyl Bromide at the Tauranga Port yesterday. He told me that for years his job on the wharf had been to drive cars, which had just been fumigated with Methyl Bromide, out of the fumigation area and onto another part of the wharf.
No one had told him that Methyl Bromide is extremely toxic and was a neurological poison. Nor had anyone advised him to wear protective gear.
And this highlights the slack and primitive way this hazardous fumigant is being used in ports all around New Zealand, and how it is putting the health and safety of workers at risk.
Another person I talked to at the Tauranga protest told me he had been talking recently to a port worker who worked in the fumigation area at the Port of Tauranga. He said there was so much pressure to fumigate logs as quickly as possible, that often they would not leave the logs for 24 hours after fumigation, as they are supposed to do, but sometimes as little as 10 or 20 minutes. Then they would lift the tarpaulins and allow the gas to drift directly into the atmosphere, putting all workers in the vicinity at risk.
It is completely irresponsible for the Port of Tauranga to use Methyl Bromide in this sloppy fashion, and allow it to be released directly into the atmosphere, where it can drift to nearby offices and even residential areas. There is perfectly effective recapture technology available which the Port of Nelson is using, which prevents the gas from being released into the atmosphere where it will destroy the ozone and put the health and safety of workers at risk.
Tauranga residents need to pressure the Port, and the Regional Council, to require recapture technology to be used whenever they use Methyl Bromide. They should also pressure the Port to use alternatives, such as heat treatment to fumigate cars and imported food.
The port of Tauranga is the biggest user of Methyl Bromide in New Zealand, using about a third of all Methyl Bromide in New Zealand –or about 100 tonnes a year. It is appalling that they are allowing about 100 tonnes of methyl bromide into the atmosphere every year. It must stop.