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Greater Wgtn to review resource consent for plant

News release
20 May 2005

Greater Wellington to review resource consent for Exide Technologies’ lead battery recycling plant

Monitoring of Exide Technologies’ lead battery recycling plant in Petone has revealed lead emissions have not reduced to a level acceptable to Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Ian Buchanan, Chairman Greater Wellington, says Greater Wellington has been working closely with Regional Public Health and strongly agrees any possible health concerns need to be addressed promptly. “We’ve therefore taken the unusual step of publicly notifying the review so that the local community can be well-informed and actively participate in the process.”

“It’s important however, despite our concerns, to keep the level of emissions from the Exide plant in perspective. Regional Public Health confirms exposure to lead from Exide Technologies is not on its own going to result in levels that would be classified as “lead poisoning”. Lead-based paint is still the most common source of lead exposure in New Zealand.

“When Exide was granted the consent in November 2001, both Greater Wellington and Regional Public Health were aware of the potential for discharges to adversely affect the surrounding environment. One of the consent conditions we imposed required Exide to undertake a series of plant upgrades designed specifically to reduce emissions. Equally importantly Exide was also required to carry out air monitoring to determine how effective the upgrades were in reducing emissions. The plant upgrades did not result in a reduction in emissions and Greater Wellington is now able to review the consent to address potential health concerns.”

Cr Buchanan says in September 2004, Greater Wellington commissioned an independent assessment of Exide’s air monitoring programme and the results showed Exide needed to both improve the quality of their sampling and put in place a regular maintenance programme.

He says there are currently no New Zealand standards which set limits on fugitive emissions escaping from the site (such as dust and particles not specifically treated by filters). The review could consider the option of imposing an arbitrary standard on the level of lead deposited in the environment surrounding Exide. While the Ministry for the Environment does have air guidelines designed to protect the health of the general population, they are not designed for application to discharges from individual sites.

“It is not an option for Greater Wellington to close Exide down as the plant currently holds a valid resource consent. Reviewing certain aspects of the consent is the fairest and best possible way to reduce lead emissions from Exide Technologies.”

The review process is well underway. Submissions close on Friday, 17 June and a decision on the resource consent review is expected by mid-August 2005.

ENDS

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