Process dragging on for fumigant

Kade McConville

Registration of an “ozone-friendly” forestry fumigant has still to be finalised after five years of evaluation.

Last November the Decision Making Committee of the Environmental Protection Authority reconvened the hearing into an application by Czech based company, Draslovka, for registration of ethanedinitrile.

The applicant, seeking to replace toxic fumigant methyl bromide with EDN, and seven parties were heard.

A direction and minute were issued in December to outline the legal matters arising from the reconvened hearing.

The applicant and submitters were asked to respond to the legal submissions, with four responses received by the January 17 deadline.

In a statement to Coast & Country, the DMC says it is currently evaluating whether it has enough information to close the hearing and progress to making a decision

Draslovka group director Kade McConville says the application for registration of EDN was first submitted to the EPA in July 2017.

“The New Zealand forest industry is now in a situation where its use of methyl bromide has been severely curtailed and the need for a replacement to support the export of New Zealand logs and timber is now urgent.”

He says Draslovka considers it has provided the DMC with a robust data package founded on sound science.

Using that information, Kade says WorkSafe has developed a Safe Work Instrument for the use of EDN as a fumigant on logs and timber under tarpaulins (sheets) and in shipping containers.

In a separate action, on New Year’s Day the EPA introduced additional controls around the use of  methyl bromide in New Zealand.

Both India and China require methyl bromide to be used, as a biosecurity tool to kill pests, on logs they receive from New Zealand.

Last August, the EPA outlined what it calls a comprehensive suite of new rules, or controls, for the substance.

“The decision sets a roadmap to full recapture of methyl bromide, and several controls began immediately, covering ventilation, notification, and reporting,” says Dr Chris Hill, general manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances group.

In general terms, Dr Hill says recapture means using technology to remove the methyl bromide gas from the fumigated enclosure, so that after use it cannot be released into the air.

From January 1, stepped increases started applying to the recapture of methyl bromide from containers and covered log stacks.

"This phased approach allows the EPA to ensure that requirements are being met by industry at each stage," Dr Hill says

There will also be larger buffer zones to prevent people from being in the vicinity while the gas is being used.

As well, local councils and affected parties, including neighbouring marae and other community facilities, must be notified before fumigation takes place.

"We’ve been pleased to see ports getting ahead of the curve on these regulations,” says Dr Hill.

This includes the Port of Tauranga which has required recapture technology to be used on all log stack fumigations since the start of the year.

A total ban on methyl bromide fumigation aboard ships takes effect from the start of 2023.

Dr Hill says the decision provides a clear and structured pathway for industry to reduce the amount of methyl bromide emitted.

“The decision recognises the benefits associated with methyl bromide use, while also protecting human health and the environment.”

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