Disquiet at plan for fertiliser plant in city

Formerly environmentally hazardous aluminium dross that sat in Bluff warehouses for more than a decade may be used to create fertiliser.

A hearing has been held in Invercargill after Taha Fertiliser Industries Ltd applied for a two-year consent to discharge contaminants from their proposed site on Bond Row in Invercargill.

Neighbouring company MG Marketing, a large fruit and produce wholesale ripening company, opposed Taha Fertiliser Industries' application to discharge contaminants to the air from the stabilising and blending of "aluminium deleted" dross.

MG Marketing said it was concerned about potential health effects Taha's operation may have on their staff and contamination of their produce.

The industrial waste, dross, which originally came from the Comalco aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point, had been stored in warehouses on Bluff's main street from 1991 to 2003 before being shipped to the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter site at Tiwai Point and dumped in a landfill there.

But, Sinclair Knight Merz Limited senior environmental consultant Nic Conland said the product was no longer dross after having been reclassified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was classified as non-hazardous, he said.

The company had developed a process for the efficient and environmentally friendly recovery of aluminium from dross, he said.

Taha Asia Pacific Limited director Hamish McCallum said the company planned to turn the formerly hazardous product into fertiliser and aimed for zero emissions.

"This is a first in the world, which will bring huge economic benefits to the farming industry of New Zealand," he said.

But not everyone was convinced.

Golder Associates Ltd senior air quality specialist Richard Chilton said without a clear understanding of what the contaminant discharges were and their potential adverse health effects no consent should be given.

Two years was a long time where contaminant emissions, and the rate of discharge of those contaminants, were unknown, he said.

Taha had an unauthorised trial run of its process last year, before the installation of a scrubber system, and a complaint was made to Environment Southland, he said.

Several staff fell ill as a result of the event, which highlighted that the risks of the process were not well understood, he said.

"I do not have confidence that the potential air quality effects of the Taha proposed fertiliser manufacturing operation will result in acceptable contaminant levels both in terms of human health and contamination of produce beyond its site boundary and at the MG Marketing premises."

The Southland Times