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Exide enforcement decision

News release
25 March 2008

Exide enforcement decision

Greater Wellington Regional Council (Greater Wellington) is to prosecute Exide Technologies Limited (Exide) for a second breach of its lead-to-air discharge resource consent conditions.

An elevated reading of 4.2 micrograms/m3 on the southern boundary (Waione Street) of Exide’s Petone battery recycling plant during the week ending 25 November last year pushed the average for the period from September to November last year to 1.67 micrograms/m3.

Exide’s resource consent requires that lead to air emissions from the plant should, on average over a three month period, not exceed 1.5 micrograms/m3 on the southern boundary.

The elevated reading was connected to transfer of drums from the baghouse to the factory.

This is the second breach of Exide’s resource consent for lead emissions since the new lower boundary lead emission limits came into force in August 2006.
Exide was convicted and fined $5000 by the Environment Court after Greater Wellington prosecuted the company for a breach of its discharge limits in the three month period to the end of March 2007.

Greater Wellington’s decision to prosecute is due to the breach of the consent and why it occurred.

Though the brief period of elevated lead levels suggests there are unlikely to be any direct long-term health effects, Greater Wellington wants to reassure the public that safeguarding community health through enforcing conditions on Exide’s resource consent will always be our highest priority.

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The prosecution will be heard by the Environment Court. A timeframe for the case will be determined by the Court.

--

Exide Technologies – November 2007 breach of lead in air limit and enforcement decision of Greater Wellington – Q&A

Note: Under the Health Act, Regional Public Health (RPH) is the body tasked with the lead role for public health protection from lead contamination. Any questions in relation to public health effects of lead should be directed to RPH.

What’s been breached?

The maximum lead emission limit, as recorded by an air sampler on the southern boundary (Waione Street).

What’s the limit?

In the consent that Exide operates under, a condition specifies that results from testing of lead emissions should, over a three month averaging period, not exceed 1.5 micrograms/m3 on its southern boundary. The averaged results to the end of November 2007 show that the three month rolling average result was 1.67 micrograms/m3.

The averaging period included results for the months of September, October and November.

Wasn’t there already a breach of this boundary limit?

Yes. GW prosecuted Exide for breaching the limit on the southern boundary for the three month rolling average to the end of March 2007. The breach then was 2.06 micrograms/m3. The Environment Court convicted Exide for this breach and also imposed a $5000 fine. This latest breach is the second since the low limits came into effect in August 2006.

What happened to cause the breach?

Exide has advised Greater Wellington that the breach was due to the transportation of drums containing dust from the baghouse to the factory as well as general housekeeping problems.

Why can’t we discuss the reasons for the breach in any detail?

This is because the matter is now before the Court, and the detail of the incident now forms evidence. We will be able to discuss the details of the breach in more detail once the prosecution has been completed.

So is Exide complying now?

The air sampling results below show the three month rolling average results for the southern boundary, for November to January. The rolling averages for the three months to December and January are under the southern boundary limit of 1.5 microgram/ m3

- November 2007 – 1.67 microgram /m3

- December 2007 – 1.35 microgram /m3

- January 2008 - 1.01 microgram /m3

Has Exide exceeded the limits on any of the other boundaries?

No. There are air samplers on two further boundaries and these were well within the consent limits.

The lower level emission limits for lead imposed at the southern plant boundary is 1.5 micrograms/m3, and 0.8 micrograms/m3 at the northern plant boundary. A lower limit of 0.55 micrograms/m3 was imposed for the western boundary. The limits are a measure of the relative proportion of the amount of lead in the air at the boundary of the plant.

What’s Exide doing to fix this problem?

Exide said it will replace the current baghouse with a new one, which should be in place by August. The new baghouse will mean that Exide won’t need to transport dust that has collected in drums from the baghouse to the factory through open areas.

The Environment Court process from here

The process before the Environment Court from here is likely to include the preparation of statements of fact by Greater Wellington and Exide, the entering of a plea by Exide, and the preparation and exchanging of evidence prior to a Court hearing.

GW community monitoring

Greater Wellington is currently monitoring at two sites beyond the boundary of Exide; one site is on Kirkaldy Street and the other is on the south side of Waione Street. We completed a similar three-month study in 1999 so comparisons will be made and the results reported to the community.

Greater Wellington will undertake the monitoring until the end of May.

ENDS

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