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MfE lawyers blocked dioxin testing at Mapua

28 August 2008

MfE lawyers blocked dioxin testing at Mapua

Correspondence and other information given to the Green Party shows the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) used lawyers to argue against Tasman District Council (TDC) testing for dioxin during the recent toxic site clean-up at Mapua.

The papers, some leaked and others obtained under the Official Information Act, show that from May 2005 the TDC was concerned the plant may be emitting dioxins. However until September 2006, MfE prevented tests for the deadly poison although the plant continued to operate.

The tests showed dioxin was being emitted despite no consent to do so. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's report on the Mapua clean-up, issued last month, says, "Of greatest concern is the possible creation of dioxin in the soil drier and its release, due to deficient control systems" and "The limited range of the substances measured means that we cannot rule out the fact that people may have been exposed to a range of toxins, most notably dioxins as well as mercury compounds, especially between September 2004 and November 2005. The design and management of the plant meant that from June 2004 until November 2004, the risk of the generation and emission of a range of toxins, most notably dioxins, was elevated."

In the papers obtained by the Greens, a letter dated June 15 2006 from TDC to the ministry says, "We have been concerned about the non-compliance with this condition, and the potential for significant discharges of dioxin for some time, (five letters; first 4 May 2005). Our earlier request to test for dioxin in the November 2005 stack tests was declined..."

A reply dated July 7 2006 from MfE says, "Further to your letter dated 15 June 2006... and the email requests for dioxin sampling since... At this stage in the project we would like to discuss with you our concern regarding requests for additional testing on areas which are outside the consent and where no adverse evidence is apparent.... MfE Legal will be contacting you separately on this matter, as we have concerns over the use of this consent condition."

Says Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman, "Even when the council offered to pay for the tests itself, MfE continued to use lawyers to try to stop them. A council compliance report with a section headed 'Legal Wrangles and Air Quality' dated August 29, 2006, says 'MfE hotly disputed our right to do this' [ie test for dioxin] and details a meeting with MfE lawyer Marilyn Bramley.

"I'm deeply concerned that if MfE was trying to cover up its botched clean-up job just two years ago it will still be trying to cover it up now."


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