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Agent Pink chemical relinquished at HazMobile event

The HazMobile had a fruitful tour of Hawke's Bay, even picking up a couple of boxes of the notorious chemical Agent Pink.

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The HazMobile collected several tonnes of paint, 4500 litres of waste oil, 1000 litres of pesticides and herbicides, 200 empty gas bottles, thousands of batteries - and two boxes of sachets containing Agent Pink.

There is always some pretty interesting rubbish turning up at the Hastings and Napier transfer stations and recycling centres. However a recent HazMobile hazardous waste weekend, with drop-off points in both Napier and Hastings, uncovered some particularly obscure items.

Napier City Council Waste Minimisation Lead Rhett van Veldhuizen said one of the most startling things to have been unloaded at the Napier event on Sunday 12 November was two boxes of chemical sachets containing Agent Pink.

Agent Pink was one of the so-called “rainbow herbicides” used in the Vietnam War alongside the equally powerful Agent Orange. The chemical – more formally known as 2, 4, 5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (or 2, 4, 5-T) – is notorious for having contributed to a number of cancers, birth defects, disease and disability among those that ingested the herbicide during, and a long time after, the conflict. The effects on the environment and the people of Vietnam are still apparent today. “We are very grateful to have received such a dangerous and hazardous substance through the HazMobile event,” says Mr van Veldhuizen. “It’s much better that we take care of the effective disposal of something like Agent Pink, rather than have it languishing in someone’s garden shed!”

In Napier, 324 customers dropped off unwanted chemicals and in Hastings, 357 locals took part. Several tonnes of paint, around 4500 litres of waste oil and unusable fuel, five 200 litre drums of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, approximately 200 empty gas bottles, thousands of batteries both big and small, and litres of pool chemicals and acids were among the haul. All of the chemicals and materials collected are disposed of in the correct way or recycled – for instance, oil and fuel can be reused as boiler fuel.

NCC's Rhett van Veldhuizen: "We are very grateful to have received such a dangerous and hazardous substance. It’s much better that we take care of the effective disposal of something like Agent Pink, rather than have it languishing in someone’s garden shed!”

However Mr van Veldhuizen says there are concerns at the way members of the public are storing their chemicals. “Many of the chemicals we collected arrived in unlabelled old household fizzy drink bottles. This is a challenge for our team to handle, even though they are experts, but more importantly it’s a very risky method of storing chemicals. Children have died after drinking from a soft drink bottle filled with chemicals. We encourage the community to keep chemicals locked away and in their original bottles or containers so there can be no mistaking the contents.”

In Hastings, Waste Minimisation Officer Angela Atkins says the team received many interesting items such as a liquid mercury switch and lead arsenic.

“It’s important that we educate residents that although it might be tempting to tip chemicals down the drain, this can easily contaminate our fragile ecosystems or pollute the environment.”

Napier City and Hastings District Councils advise that if you do need to have hazardous materials at home, make sure they are always stored safely and securely:

  • Keep hazardous materials dry and away from heat or flames;
  • Always keep things in their original container so the contents are clearly labelled;
  • If the container is leaking and you have to use another, label it correctly;
  • Keep lids tightly closed;
  • Always keep hazardous materials out of the reach of children - for example in a locked cupboard.

There are services available year round for the disposal of hazardous material, such as paint which can be recycled at Resene and Mitre 10 stores, and waste oil which can be disposed of at the Council Transfer Stations.

HazMobile events have been running for 10 years. For more information on the safe storage and disposal of hazardous waste, contact your Council.

 

21 November 2017

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