Health and safety fears over kiln

By Victoria White

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Catherine Delahunty, Green MP. Photo / Duncan Brown
Catherine Delahunty, Green MP. Photo / Duncan Brown

People asked at a public meeting last night if it would take a death for action to be taken at the plagued Pan Pac Mill.

The most recent malfunction of the $2.5 million kiln on February 23 resulted in four workers requiring medical attention.

At a meeting in Bay View last night, First Union representative Mike McNab revealed one worker turned blue and stopped breathing on the way to hospital and was resuscitated only when given CPR by his workmate.

"We have to find a solution and it can't be the death of people," he said. "We're not going to have a whole lot of mill workers dead out here."

Last night workers, residents and union members expressed their frustration about the TNT kiln, which has previously been shut down due to health and safety concerns about gas emissions.

They spoke of the company keeping information about the dangerous gas emissions from nearby residents, the explosive potential of the kiln being kept from emergency services and residents finding out, after going to the manufacturer, that the kiln was a trial-and-error manufacturing experiment.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty, who organised the meeting, said "the people" had been kept out of the discussion for the past two years while the company had been "experimenting".

"If the industry wants to operate in a residential area they have a responsibility. They have to look after their workers but they also have to look after the people in the area.

"Nobody should ever go to work and get sick.

Joining her on the panel were Mr McNab, resident Warren Kohlis and environmental consultant Gordon Jackman.

Mr Jackman said in theory, TNT was very good practice. He explained that when pine was dried in the kiln a "whole range of gases was given off".

"The company is quite aware of the toxic nature of these chemicals. It's not good for workers to be exposed to these chemicals.

"The problem is trust; every time something happens the trust disappears and we need to rebuild that."

Emotions were high when Pan Pac managing director Doug Ducker spoke.

Mr Ducker said the company needed to communicate better with residents.

"We need to look for your trust or support to move forward.

"It is not our intent to harm anyone."

Resident Warren Kohlis said people had felt unwell since the mill had been failing.

"The kiln should be moved", he said. It was too close to residential areas and when it failed it came into residents' houses.

Last August tests showed levels of pollutants were well below recommended guidelines when the kiln was operating normally but acrolein and acetic acid levels could exceed standards if a burner used to eliminate noxious gases stopped working during kiln operation.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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