Selling the Environment | The Jackal

17 Apr 2011

Selling the Environment

New Zealand has a serious environmental pollution problem that has been largely ignored by consecutive National and Labour Governments. With an estimated total of 10,060,000 Tonnes of effluent discharge from pulp and paper mills into NZ waterways each year, it is something that cannot be ignored.

Mill effluent goes into our waterways. It discolours water, and reduces the amount of oxygen present. Solids in the effluent settle on the riverbed. Chlorine and its derivatives, producing dioxins and other contaminants, as well as many other highly dangerous substances are also known to be present in Kraft mill wastewater. Half of the discharged waste comprises of condensate wastewater, the other half is made up of thousands (too many to list here) of the most dangerous and poisonous substances known to mankind. Some of these dangerous substances are released at levels that often well exceed any worldwide safety guidelines. There is no proper monitoring and any breaches are ignored.

But it’s not just our waterways they’re polluting; our air gets a good hammering as well. Gaseous emissions consist of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, chlorine dioxide and reduced sulphur gases, just to name a few. The typical kraft mill odour is due to discharges of hydrogen sulphide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulphide and dimethyl disulphide...

Hydrogen Sulphide: Carcinogenic, Gas is heavier than air. Exposure symptoms: Cardiovascular or blood toxicant, neurotoxicant, reproductive toxicant, respiratory toxicant, H25 irritates eyes at 50 ppm and causes death at 100 ppm to 300 ppm. Rapid loss of sense of smell on exposure to gas concentrations above 150 ppm.

Dimethyl Sulphide: Severe eye irritant. Harmful if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through skin.

Methyl Mercaptan CH35H: Chemical Asphyxiant. Odour: Rotten cabbage. Gas is heavier than air and may travel along the ground. Substance decomposes on burning producing toxic fumes including Sulphur Dioxide and Hydrogen Sulphide. Reacts badly with strong oxidants. Reacts with sunlight, water, steam, or acids to form flammable and toxic gas. Forms explosive mixtures with oxygen at low levels.

(International Programme on Chemical Safety) Exposure symptoms: Irritates eyes and respiratory tract. May cause adverse effects on the central nervous system, resulting in respiratory depression. High levels of exposure may result in unconsciousness and/or death. Effects may be delayed.

(US Dept. of Labour Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea and unconsciousness. Pulmonary Edema (Delayed). CS effects: Narcosis, Cyanosis and Seizures. Respiratory failure.

(Intergas Safety Data) Exposure symptoms: Fatigue, Mucous membrane irritation of lips mouth and nose. May affect central nervous system causing muscle weakness, tremors, narcosis, convulsions, unconsciousness, paralysis of the respiratory tract, cyanosis, coma and death. Chronic blood and lung effects: Liver injury has been documented after inhalation. Exposure to 4 ppm for several hours results in headaches and nausea.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are also significant mercury levels because of the toxic releases from pulp and paper mills. With no studies done into multiple gas exposure and their synergistic effects on the human organism, it’s no wonder New Zealand has the highest cancer rate in the World? But hey! The export dollar is worth more than people’s health isn’t it?

Pollution kills plants and other life in our rivers. In 1997, Environment Bay of Plenty described life on the bottom of the Tarawera River, used by the Tasman mills, as “Completely obliterated”, although they have done little to remedy the situation.

The major categories of water pollution of concern to the pulp and paper industry are: suspended solids (mainly fibre), biological oxygen demand, toxicity and colour. The effluent from the bleaching process contains of variety of substances, some of which are known or suspected of being toxic, genotoxic or mutagenic. Chlorinated organics that are produced in the chlorine bleaching processes are of particular concern. Chemicals (especially the dissolved lignin) are detrimental to the environment.

Colour can be a problem, especially when the effluent is discharged into receiving waters with a high transparency, like New Zealands waterways. Most of the colour derives from the bleaching process, and oxygen delignification. External removal of colour can be carried out, but it is difficult and expensive.

Waste water generation rates should not exceed 50 m3/t of air-dried pulp (ADP), and levels of 20 m3/t of air-dried pulp (ADP) (or product) should be targeted. For paper mills, effluent discharges should be less than 5 m3/t of ADP. I could not find a m3/t for chlorine plants, but would presume that it is less than 5 m3/t making Kinleith fail to meet recommended effluent discharge recommendations. Considering what that pollution contains, any amount is too much to release into the environment.

Kinleith – 2 Kraft Pulp Mills: 2 Paper Machines – Product = 235,000 Tonnes per annum (TPA) 1 Pulp Dryer – 420,000 TPA. Total product 655,000 TPA – Effluent discharge = 3,102,500 TPA. Just under 5 m3/t.

Penrose – (uses paper given for recycling, not wood chips or logs) 1 Paper Machine – 67 000 TPA

Whakatane – Pulp mill: 1 Paperboard machine – 80 000 TPA

Kawerau – Pulp Mill: 3 Paper Machines – 55 000 TPA

Mataura: 2 Paper Machines – 25 000 TPA

Tasman Pulp and Paper Company Ltd. Kawerau
3 Paper Machines – 400 000 TPA
2 Mechanical Pulp Mills – 315 000 TPA
2 Kraft Pulp Mills – 290 000 TPA

Pan Pacific Forests Industries (NZ) Ltd. Karioi: 1 Pulp Mill – 125 000 TPA

Kinleith Mill is one of the largest polluters, with a discharge consent, allowing for a wastewater volume of up to 165000m3/d, of which it was originally expected that up to 155000m3/d may be discharged to the Kopakorahi Stream and 10000 m3/d to the Waituna Stream. US giant International Paper owns the majority of Kinleith. NZ is receiving around 10c for every tonne of waste produced. It’s most likely going to cost us more than 10c to clean up, so there is no financial reason to continue with these dangerous dinosaurs.

Kinleith’s discharge into our waterways may have reduced somewhat since 2004 but this is due to new massive sludge pits which allows evaporation and absorption into the earth, thus reducing the overall amount released but increasing the toxicity.

Wastewaters are usually discharged at a rate of 20–250 cubic meters per metric ton (m3/t) of ADP. They are high in biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), at 10–40 kg/t of ADP; total suspended solids, 10– 50 kg/t of ADP; chemical oxygen demand (COD), 20–200 kg/t of ADP; and chlorinated organic compounds, which may include dioxins, furans, and other adsorbable organic halides, AOX, at 0–4 kg/t of ADP. Wastewater from chemical pulping contains 12–20 kg of BOD/t of ADP, with values of up to 350 kg/t. The corresponding values for mechanical pulping wastewater are 15–25 kg BOD/t of ADP.

For chemimechanical pulping, BOD discharges are 3 to 10 times higher than those for mechanical pulping. Pollution loads for some processes, such as those using non-wood raw materials, could be significantly different. Phosphorus and nitrogen are also released into wastewaters. The main source of nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus compounds is raw material such as wood. The use of peroxide, ozone, chlorine and other chemicals in bleaching makes it necessary to use a complexing agent for heavy metals such as manganese, all very dangerous stuff.

Fish stocks around Kinleith waterways are greatly affected by its pollution. The effects of which are mainly located in areas where the most discharge takes place, like Lake Maraetai, but have also been found to affect fish in the Waikato River. Fish within the downstream of effluent discharge have been found to contain Dioxins and are not safe to consume; no official is going to tell you that though. The official conclusion is that a build up of toxins is due to historical releases and more testing needs to be done.

Because of an increase in temperature from waste, some fish have apparently increased in number. Fish in these areas have been shown to have a disproportionate female/male ratio and studies have shown this is due to discharged chemicals which change their sex from female to male. I’m sure the same effects are found in fish stocks around Kawerau’s mills.

The likely presence of mutagenic and genotoxic compounds in the discharges into the Tarawera River as well as many other areas of New Zealand, have been shown to cause deformations in fish. There seems to be a correlation between this and the high cancer rate in the people who have eaten eels, whitebait and fish from the sea outside the river mouth. Given the amount of overseas evidence that such compounds are often present in Pulp and Paper Mill discharges, I found it quite extraordinary that Pulp and Paper Mills are still gaining consents to pollute.

Conclusion: Get rid of these outdated monoliths.