22 August 2000 – Auckland: Leaking drums which apparently contained highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered at an inner city Auckland site over the weekend. A member of the public, who discovered the two drums lying against a fence in a yard of a central Auckland business premises, contacted Greenpeace and the Regional Council. Greenpeace contacted the authorities immediately.
PCBs are a member of a group of 12 organochlorine chemicals ~ including dioxins and DDT ~ coined the “dirty dozen”, which have been prioritised by the United Nations for elimination. An international toxics treaty is currently under negotiation for the elimination of the dirty dozen.
“Organochlorine chemicals are some of the most toxic chemicals ever made by humans”, said Sue Connor Greenpeace toxics campaigner. “They can cause cancer, interfere with reproductive and immune systems in both wildlife and humans, and can impair children’s development.”
“The fact that what appears to be drums of PCB contaminated equipment lay rusting in central Auckland, indicates that there is a lack of proper systems in place to protect New Zealanders from this kind of pollution. One simple thing the government could do is to set up a toxic hotline, so that people can contact the proper authorities directly if they are concerned about toxic contamination”, said Connor. “Central government has responsibility to ensure that sources of PCBs such as this old electrical equipment are identified so they can be safely collected, stored and disposed of. In this instance there has been a clear failure”.
“If an observant member of the public had not raised the alarm about those rusting drums of toxic chemicals, they would be still lying there, leaking into the soil”, said Connor. “How many other sites are there like this around the country, not only PCBs, but also other chemicals in the dirty dozen like DDT and dieldrin?”
“This incident in Auckland shows that, despite PCBs being banned years ago, there is a lack of leadership in the way these chemicals are being dealt with”, said Connor. “This lack of leadership is also reflected in the fact that New Zealand is one of just a small group of countries who are currently not agreeing to eliminate all of the dirty dozen under the international toxics treaty.”
“It is time for the government to stand up to protect New Zealanders and their environment from these toxic chemicals”, said Connor. “The government must agree internationally to eliminate all 12 of the dirty dozen and follow through with a nationally co-ordinated plan of action to eliminate the dirty dozen in New Zealand”.
Photographs and footage of Auckland site
available on request from Greenpeace New Zealand office (09)
630 6317. For more information contact Sue Connor on 021
213 5603 or (09) 630 6317. See