(This is the first of three articles about 1080 storage and how things can go terribly wrong.)
Storing poison often illegally
By Mary Wood and Ann Hunt
A series of responses from Official Information Act (OIA) questions to Fire and Emergency NZ, Mid Central District Health Board, WorksafeNZ and Horizons Council have highlighted the shocking dangers that the public are still being subjected to – 34 years after the tragic events at a fire at an ICI chemical store at Mount Wellington, Auckland.
Public concerns about the risks from the New Zealand Government’s continued widespread use of pesticides that are banned in much of the rest of the world, are regular debates.
But what of the risks to health from poisons like 1080 even BEFORE they are spread by helicopters over our land and water?
Poison stored all over the country
Well, many tonnes of the poisonous cereal baits and perhaps even the highly toxic raw poison itself has to be stored somewhere.
Fire & Emergency NZ tell us there are over 700 such ‘highly hazardous’ storage sites nationally. But they’re just the ones they know about; some sites are deliberately kept secret.
It’s true that there are Health and Safety Laws – constantly being updated – that attempt to increase accountability and decrease the disproportionately high numbers of work-related deaths and illnesses in New Zealand.
The Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017, Section 3.2 spells out how those involved with storing extremely toxic chemicals like Compound 1080 should be ‘Managing risks associated with hazardous substances’. That includes aspects like being responsible for the
“..health and physico-chemical hazards associated with the hazardous substance, any potential chemical or physical reaction between hazardous substances and any ignition sources that might ignite the hazardous substance”.
That’s because, when burnt, 1080 poison generates extremely toxic Hydrogen Fluoride gases and in such an event, an evacuation maybe necessary to limit public health risks.
What happens before the laying of poison?
Prior to aerial application, the New Zealand Dept of Conservation (DoC) our councils and commercial sites often store tonnes of 1080 and other highly toxic poisons like Brodifacoum, illegally.
For instance, a 1080 storage site at Tua Marina near Blenheim has apparently been without any valid risk assessment and associated emergency plan since 2016. And similarly, in October 2017, prior to a poisoning operation in the Coromandel, 23 tonnes of 1080 poison was stored in a public carpark near a supermarket in Whitianga CBD.
Neither the Fire Services nor the local DHB had been informed. These are only two that have come to the authors’ attention; no doubt there are numerous other high-risk sites throughout New Zealand.
Does anyone care?
But no-one seems to care about the risks, even when the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 sections 2.11 clearly states it is the “duty of the Person Conducting the Business or Undertaking (PCBU) to obtain and provide access to Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)”.
That includes short summaries for the Emergency Services.
Despite highlighting these concerns, mainstream media repeatedly refuses to publish details of these dangerous activities; reasons for this are unclear.
(To be continued.)