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EPA serves Compliance Order on Nelson Airport

EPA serves Compliance Order on Nelson Airport

The Environmental Protection Authority has served a Compliance Order on Nelson Airport, following its inspection of the airport’s fire-fighting facilities as part of its inquiry into fire-fighting foams, Chief Executive Dr Allan Freeth announced today.

“Under changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act arising from workplace safety reforms, on 1 December last year the EPA became responsible for enforcing the requirements that workplace hazardous substances have certain approvals, that persistent organic pollutants are not used, and that any on hand are safely stored and disposed of. The EPA has been preparing for its assumption of these new responsibilities for some time.

“On 20 December, the EPA announced its investigation into PFOS- and PFOA-containing fire-fighting foams. As part of that inquiry, we are visiting airports across the country. We are taking samples of fire-fighting foams and having them tested by an independent, qualified laboratory.”

“The results from Nelson Airport show that foams held in two fire trucks, and numerous storage containers, have tested positive for PFOS. Given these foams are present in the appliances, clearly they would be used in response to a fire emergency at the airport,” Dr Freeth said.

“The compliance order we have issued requires the airport to stop using fire-fighting foam containing PFOS when responding to emergencies as soon as practicable. In the interim, the airport may continue using the foam for emergencies, in the interests of safety. The compliance order also requires the airport to cease using the foam for training or testing purposes.”

The airport must submit a plan to the EPA by Friday 16 March, detailing steps that will be taken to ensure the foam is no longer used. The plan must also show how the foam will be safely stored and disposed of, to minimise harm to the environment.

“Our aim is to ensure Nelson Airport follows the legal requirements, which are designed to protect people and the environment,” Dr Freeth said.

“Foams manufactured using PFOS have not been legal for use in New Zealand since 2006, when they were excluded from a Fire-fighting Chemicals Group Standard issued by the EPA.

PFOS is listed as a persistent organic pollutant under the Stockholm Convention, and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act was amended in 2011 to reflect this,” Dr Freeth said.

“This means that no import, use or manufacture of PFOS compounds is permitted in New Zealand, other than for specific, identified uses, such as laboratory analysis.”

“Our investigation is continuing, and the EPA is having samples of fire-fighting foams from other airports analysed,” Dr Freeth said.


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