Friday, February 21, 2020

Another environmental crime

The recent floods in Southland have highlighted the issue of Rio Tinto's illegal toxic waste dump in Mataura. But according to Newsroom, there's an even worse mess in Ruakaka near Whangarei:

A Northland property stockpiled one million litres of flammable and toxic chemicals. Almost two years since the situation came to the attention of authorities, the poorly stored solvents remain a fire and environmental risk.

While Government agencies struggled to get a polluter to clean up his mess, up to one million litres of flammable and toxic solvents in corroding drums has sat next door to key infrastructure.

The solvents were illegally accumulated by a Ruakaka solvent recycling plant in breach of its consent to store 50,000 litres of solvent. Poorly stored, they were thought to pose a fire danger to the Marsden Point oil refinery pipeline and its electricity supply.

Last week two grass fires occurred nearby. One was approximately 700 metres away from the property.

Locals are largely unaware of the scale of the issue on their doorstep.

As well as liquid solvents stored outdoors in rusting drums and plastic containers, it's thought 150 to 200 tonnes of contaminated material was buried illegally. Tests on groundwater showed levels of contamination 1200 times higher than drinking water standards allow.

Reading the whole thing, I'm appalled, and left with the overwhelming question: why is this person not in jail? Because I'm seeing serious breaches of the RMA (including violation of enforcement orders), which is punishable by two years imprisonment, and probably breaches of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act as well in relation to storage of hazardous substances (which is probably worth 3 months in jail, a $500,000 fine, plus $50,000 a day if non-compliance continues). This is a serious, ongoing environmental crime, which endangers key infrastructure as well as people's health. and it needs to be treated as such.