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Image: Workers signpost dioxin in Whakatane

Sawmill Workers Against Poisons and Greenpeace signpost dioxin contamination in Whakatane

Whakatane, 23 October 2001: Greenpeace and Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP) placed signs on confirmed and suspected dioxin contaminated sites around Whakatane today.

A disused sawmill, now owned by Carter Holt Harvey, now carries signs that say “Danger! this site contains dioxin”. Signs on other sites say “Danger! this site may contain dioxin”.

The signposting draws attention to at least 25 sites around the Whakatane area, which may have had dioxin contaminated waste dumped on them from the disused sawmill site and the Whakatane Board Mill. The groups want these sites to be tested for dioxin and other dangerous chemicals.

“We know the Carter Holt Harvey owned sawmill site is contaminated with dioxins, some of the most deadly chemicals ever created by humans. Other sites must be tested for dioxins to show whether the dumping of waste from the sawmill is contaminating Whakatane. All dioxin contaminated sites must be properly cleaned up on site, and not taken to other places to be destroyed, so the contamination does not get spread to other parts of New Zealand”, said Joe Harawira of SWAP.

SWAP is also calling for the adverse health effects of sawmill workers from their exposure to dioxin and PCP contamination to be addressed.

Greenpeace has criticised the Government’s recently released dioxin action plan because it only addresses a very small portion of the dioxin problem in New Zealand and does not implement an overarching policy with goal to outlaw and eliminate dioxins.

“This year the Government signed an international treaty, the Stockholm Convention, which has the goal of eliminating dioxins, yet the dioxin action plan is ignoring that goal. Instead it focuses only on dioxin from incinerators (which will be allowed to continue to operate), backyard burning of rubbish, treated wood and copper wire recycling. It fails to confront dioxin contaminated sites such as the site in Whakatane and others like it all over the country,” says Greenpeace campaigner, Sue Connor.

“The action plan will not protect New Zealanders and indeed, ignores some of the key requirements under the Stockholm Convention, such as switching to clean production processes and products, which do not cause dioxins in the first place.

“The Government has signed the Stockholm Convention and must once and for all address the dangers of dioxins and address the health and environmental damage caused by polluting industries.

For more information contact Brendan Lynch communication officer on 025 790 817 or Sue Connor Greenpeace campaigner on 025 272 4044.

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