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No long-term public health effects following fire

7 March 2006

No long-term public health effects following fire at VJ Distributors

Following further analysis of the chemicals stored at VJ Distributors in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s public health unit today reiterated its earlier advice to the public that no long-term health effects were anticipated.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, said information was distributed to people living in the affected area on Saturday afternoon. “We advised that smoke inhalation and fumes from the fire could cause sore eyes and sore throats, but these symptoms would be short-lived. If symptoms persisted people were advised to seek medical advice. We are aware of a number of people who sought medical advice for minor respiratory irritations, however, no-one was admitted to hospital due to smoke inhalation.

“We also advised people to ventilate their homes and vehicles; rewash any washing that was outside; wash fruit and vegetables before eating, and to wipe down any food preparation surfaces,” she said. “This advice still stands.”

Caroline McElnay said the chemicals stored at VJs would have been combusted during the fire and any by-products from those chemicals would not have spread outside the immediate fire area.

“During the fire the large amount of burning fuel caused acrid smoke and fumes, this can cause respiratory and eye irritations at the time of exposure to the smoke with no long-lasting effects. The fire was predominantly a fuel fire, which produced soot and ash from hydrocarbon fuels,” Dr McElnay said.

Public Health Warning: Don’t take watercress from Southland Drain and Irongate streams

The Public Health Unit have also issued a precautionary warning not to take water cress from the Southland Drain and Irongate Stream in Hastings until further notice. While Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has been working to contain the area of contamination, it is likely that some of the watercress along the stream may be contaminated from initial discharges into the drain.

General update

Fire Service are still investigating but there is a possibility work will start on recovery of the oil from the site of the fire this afternoon.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council met with owners and insurance assessors this morning to firm up the site clean-up plan. A detailed list of the chemical composition of all the products stored at VJ Distributors has been prepared and methods of disposal of contaminated oil, soil and water is now being considered.

Sucker trucks are continuing to work in the Kaiapo Drain with contaminated material going to Beards Environmental Ltd, a local waste management company.

Helen Codlin, regulation manager for Hawke’s Bay Regional Council said the effect of soot and smoke on apples at nearby orchards is still being assessed. In the meantime, harvested apples which may have been affected are being stored separately at packhouses.


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