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Open mike 17/03/2021

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, March 17th, 2021 - 36 comments
Categories: open mike - Tags:

Open mike is your post.

For announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose.

The usual rules of good behaviour apply (see the Policy).

Step up to the mike …

36 comments on “Open mike 17/03/2021 ”

  1. Incognito 1

    Giving farmers more time to prepare and clean up their act is a good thing. I hope they don’t blow this opportunity and try to stall the process for as long as possible.


    • bwaghorn 1.1

      The 1st of November deadline is impractical, shit my crop paddocks at work were pooled with surface water till mid November.

      And from what I've heard there slope mapping system is a shemozzle, I'm picking the government buying time so they can fix the problems and quietly let the daft bits fall away.

  2. Jimmy 2

    Perhaps Grant Robertson will be the next MP to ditch Newstalk ZB after this interview.


    Hipkins and Nash both still turn up for ZB.

  3. Adrian Thornton 3

    Formal Complaint to RNZ… not holding my breath that anything will happen, but you gotta do something, right?

    Re; RNZ coverage of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in April 2018.

    In a brief search I found over 20 RNZ headline stories from the period 8-22 April 2018 on the above subject.

    In light of the recent letter titled "Statement of Concern" signed by five former OPCW officials, including the organization's founding leader, José Bustani, and others including Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Tulsi Gabbard, John Pilger, Lord West of Spithead, as well two former senior UN officials, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, in which there are raised (with many supporting documents and witnesses) serious concerns over the validity of the finished OPCW report on the April 7th Douma incident, one would expect RNZ to inform the public of these new developments under Part 2 9a of the Radio Code Standards "In the event that a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it at the earliest appropriate opportunity."

    Statement of Concern: https://couragefound.org/2021/03/stat

    Please let me reiterate, now that creditable evidence has surfaced that sheds new light and information, and in many ways repudiates many of the assumptions guests and commentators were asserting on RNZ over the period RNZ covered this story in April 2018, RNZ surely now has a responsibility (Part2 9b) to inform the pubic of these new developments on this story, just as they rightly reported on the story well over 20 times in April 2018.

    I will cite Part 2 Standard 8 at a later date if no measures are taken by RNZ in the near future to bring this new information it's audience, thereby through its own reporting, leaving an unbalanced description of the events of the Douma event in the pubic arena.

    Adrian Thornton

    • francesca 3.1

      Good on you Adrian

      But of course, RNZ gets their overseas news from the US standard bearers and the likes of Reuters, recently implicated in FCO collusion to "weaken Russia " through it's charitable arm


      RNZ doesn't bother to fact check or verify or seek a diversity of opinions because it has been brought up to believe the western press is free and good and would never lie , unlike those bastards beyond the pale.

      • Adrian Thornton 3.1.1

        Thanks francesca, a little while ago I meet an interesting young couple who used to work at RNZ. They informed me that the interesting emails (and I would assume complaints) often get handed around the offices, so who knows…planting seeds maybe?…and at the very least, it's cathartic for me.

  4. aj 4

    Thank you and good luck yes

  5. greywarshark 5

    This is very likely unless NZ government can draw on help from specialist scientists around the world.


    I can't see Rio Tinto shifting all that stuff (ouvea). What's in it for them? They have more money than our virtual widespread city. We could fight them in a Court battle and film it and make some money perhaps if it could have a Boston Legal approach put on it. That might pay for our legal costs which would end up being high no matter what we do. Would we be like cities in the USA which have gone bankrupt? Flint was managed into ill health through toxic water fed to them by officials and leaders trying to save money, in a depressed city previously driven by the wealth of a now closed car manufacturer.

    And shipping it away somewhere; a nasty taste in the mouth will be felt by us out of guilt, and the poor people in any other country that the ouvea, even some of it, is shipped to. That is unless it can be neutralised somehow. Has anybody ideas from known facts about managing chemicals – what have you learned as an engineer Red Logix? Or anyone with some real knowledge behind their statements. Waving our arms in the air and expressing concern can be taken for granted. Let's move past that and see if anyone knows anything definite and doable, even if it is costly.

    There may be something in this paper about bauxite. https://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1076b/report.pdf

    Just what is ouvea premix and what is dross and is it merely playing with words and degrees of toxicity?
    Fertiliser firm apologises for dross dumping – HazTec
    (haztec.co.nz › announcements › fertiliser-firm-apologis… 17/09/2014 — Ouvea premix had substantially different chemical characteristics than dross, was less hazardous and had different requirements under the …)


    And a nasty little sting. Ouvea is actually the name of a place (in Loyalty Islands I think where Bauxite was found). It sounds pleasanter than ' bauxite trash'. I wonder how people in that area like having that name used for toxic waste? Perhaps it will end up being called Kiwi?

    I searched on google using these words 'scholarly technical details about ouvea from aluminium process' – this seems to open up the listings beyond NZ's problems. This stuff must have piled up around the world. What has happened to it? What have other countries done with it?

    It needs to be neutralised as it will result in an environmental disaster bigger than we have had to cope with out of cows bottoms and those of men thrusting their way into piles of credits that they can turn into anything that takes their fancy. Ultimately nothing does, or so I understand from reading about Howard Hughes. In the process of reaching nothingness these people spread harm like Sauron the beast of Mordor.

    • RedLogix 5.1

      In our part of the world Rio Tinto extract bauxite near Weipa in the far north of Queensland, ship it to Gladstone (and some direct to China) where it is converted to alumina using the Bayer Process. The alumina is then shipped to refineries, four in Australia and I have to assume some winds up at Bluff.

      The main waste stream of the Bayer Process is a material called 'red mud'. It's mainly a bunch of relatively non-toxic oxides (all of which occur naturally in large quantities) but it is very alkaline and uncontrolled discharges of it are highly undesirable. Considerable effort is being made to find better ways to handle and dispose of it.

      However this ain't what is of concern here in NZ. What we have is a different waste stream resulting from the refinery process when the alumina is converted into aluminum metal. For some reason the term 'ouvea waste' seems specific to NZ and the Bluff smelter. It's not clear to me why this is.

      The best article I've found so far is here. It quotes two expert opinions, which both agree on the composition of this waste, but slightly disagree on the possible consequences.

      “Ouvea premix is a mixture comprising around 30% aluminium oxide, 30% aluminium nitride and 30% magnesium aluminate, together with, amongst other things, small amounts of metallic aluminium.

      “Of these, the most potentially hazardous compound is aluminium nitride, which reacts with water to form ammonia, release of which into waterways could have significant effects on fish life and aquatic flora.

      The aluminium oxide is chemically stable with a very low bioavailability. It essentially comprises the surface layer on every piece of aluminium you've ever touched. In it's powdered form you don't want to get on your skin as it's an irritant.

      The magnesium aluminate is otherwise called 'spinel'. Again it's a naturally occurring mineral that's stable and seems to present no obvious hazard at least according to it's MDS sheet.

      This leaves the aluminium nitride as the potential problem because it's less chemically stable, and according to this MDS it slowly hydrolyses in the presence of water to form among other things ammonia and hydrogen gas.

      The unanswered question is just how fast does this happen? It's certainly not characterised anywhere as a fast, highly unstable, exothermic reaction that would produce a fire, explosion or large quantities of gas. Nor at the other extreme is it something very slow like iron rusting.

      And while ammonia gas is definitely toxic if you get a lung full of it at high exposure, as anyone whose worked with ammonia based refrigeration can tell you, it dissipates fairly quickly and breaks down in the environment without any accumulation issues. Ammonia is a very common material that's widely used very safely.

      However in very damp conditions the gas will become heavier than air and linger in low lying pockets and enclosed spaces. The good news is that the odour is extremely pungent and most people will smell it and get the hell out long before it becomes dangerous to them. It's really only a risk when you're trapped inside with it and you don't have a safe exit route.

      The hydrogen gas is extremely mobile and will dissipate very quickly with no harm whatsoever, but again it's possible to imagine a scenario where sufficient quantity is trapped in an enclosed space with the real potential for an explosion. Again it's hard to judge the risk here not knowing the reaction rates and ventilation available.

      Overall my conclusion is yes there is a hazard, but it's not a very severe one. It does seem a dumb idea to store large quantities of it in a location subject to flooding – that should certainly be dealt to. (Has it been removed from the old Mataura Paper mill yet?) But even in the event that such a stockpile was flooded, it's not clear just how much or how fast the ammonia gas would be released, and whether it would ever gather in sufficient intensity to cause a hazard to people nearby. It could conceivably be a problem for anyone entering the building – but it's an open question that probably no-one can give an authoritative answer to.

      Excessive alarm and stress over it's presence is not justified in my view. However I also agree it must not be left in Southland indefinitely, there is a good case for Rio to take ownership of the problem and ship it back to an Australian site where they already have better options to store it remote from any possible harm.

      I should add that I’m absolutely not a chemist, but I’ve made a best effort here based on open sources of information. If someone has better information I’m happy to stand corrected.

      • greywarshark 5.1.1

        Well that is good toffee to chew on Red L. I can hardly get my teeth apart. That will keep me quiet for some time!angry

        • RedLogix

          I was motivated by your own comment above that you clearly put both time and sincerity into.


          • greywarshark

            Much appreciated. It's all bad news I feel, but it has to be faced and it is good to know more than I have seen so far.

  6. Treetop 6

    How sincere are the apologies for the toxic mess?

    Even if sincere still not good enough, the waste is an environmental problem which requires the right solution to clean it up.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 6.1

      Like those tyres that went up in smoke; it's only the environment – she'll be right. /sarc

      Tonnes of toxic waste will finally be removed from a Southland town, but some Mataura residents say that after many failed promises, they'll hold off celebrating until they see firm proof.

      This is the link to some NZ expert opinions that are consistent with the information in RL's comment @5.1. One concern appears to be the potential downstream effects of ammonia gas dissolving in water and giving a nitrogen (ammonium –> nitrate) nutrient boost to the river, a bit like nitrogen run-off from fertiliser and farm animal urine/faeces contaminating waterways.

      8000 tonnes of aluminium dross, so say 2400 tonnes of aluminium nitride, containing ~800 tonnes of nitrogen; 'a drop in the Matura'. For comparison:

      In 2015, 429,000 tonnes of nitrogen and 155,000 tonnes of phosphorus were applied to New Zealand soil as fertiliser.

      Is the aluminium dross byproduct of the Tiwai Point smelting process not suitable for recycling? In Iceland, "Around 7000 tonnes of aluminium dross is recycled annually", but maybe their aluminium dross is not the same as our dross?

      Excessive alarm and stress over it's presence is not justified in my view.

      Excessive alarm is seldom justified, imho. How about proportionate alarm?

      Aluminium nitride – Ecotoxicological Summary
      Overall, the available data on the hydrolysis products of AlN suggest that aluminium nitride should be classified as “Aquatic Chronic 1, H410” (very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects).

      Still, the EU is notoriously risk averse about ecotoxicity – wonder why?

      6. Accidental release measures
      Personal Precautions: Ensure adequate ventilation. Use personal protective equipment as required. Avoid dust formation.
      Environmental Precautions: Do not flush into surface water or sanitary sewer system. Do not allow material to contaminate ground water system. Prevent product from entering drains. Local authorities should be advised if significant spillages cannot be contained.

      • RedLogix 6.1.1

        Understanding what the material actually is, and what the potential hazards are is the key to responding to it rationally. That I tried to provide above. My conclusion is that it doesn't represent an urgent or alarming risk to people. There is no need to catastrophise over this one.

        The waterways are a somewhat different matter I agree, but that is something that can be readily managed in the short term at least. Long term it should go back to Australia where they're in a much better position generally to handle it.

        It’s my understanding that one of the big constraints on Rio is that increasingly stringent regulations are making it impossible for them to move this material, even when it clearly makes sense for them to do so.

        More unintended consequences.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          My conclusion is that it doesn't represent a serious or alarming risk to people.

          You might be right. One thing's for certain – the aluminium dross distributed around Southland doesn't represent a serious or alarming risk to you and me.

          If some locals are skeptical, then they need to understand that’s just the cost of doing business – suck up those risks, OK?

          Oops, maybe the problem is a bit bigger than we knew. This time it's "Spent Pot Lining" – makes 8,000 tonnes of aluminium dross look like pretty small beans!

          Smelter stockpiles 100,000 tonnes of hazardous waste near beach

          SPL is the "most significant solid waste" to come from smelting, according to the aluminium industry's global body, the International Aluminium Institute.

          It is such an environmental headache worldwide that the institute last year put out 70 pages of guidelines and case studies on what to do with it.

          • RedLogix

            Again if you read the article, Rio have made real efforts to sell this SPL material as it can be safely recycled in the cement making process.

            But the one plant in NZ interested in doing it closed down and tightened regulations make it very hard to send overseas. Regulations intended to protect the environment apparently.

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              "When one reflects on other events, eg the recent fire in stockpiled tyres [in Canterbury], it is clear that we are all becoming much more aware of the impact of historic activities on environmental well-being," Hadley said.

              If only that were true.

              Again if you read the article

              I did read the article – even linked to it. However, since you've only got good things to say about Rio Tinto's efforts, and seem to be placing the blame on those dastedly 'environmental regulators', it's difficult to believe that we read the same article indecision

              The aluminium smelter at Bluff has stockpiled more than 100,000 tonnes of cyanide-laced hazardous waste less than 100 metres from a fast-eroding Southland beach.

              The smelter company will not reveal its plans for the hazardous waste, despite international industry guidelines it has signed up to that say it should.

              At Tiwai Point, the smelter company now faces legal action over the SCL waste. Retired environmental engineer Carl Reller from Wairarapa is seeking an enforcement order from the Environment Court to force a clean-up.

              Some of the Tiwai waste has been processed overseas into mineral wool insulation, or detoxified for use in cement, bricks and the like in Europe, according to the Aluminium Institute, though it gives no figures.

              "Regulations intended to protect the environment" – you don't approve?

              In other respects, hazardous substance regulations apply – but these have been faulted. WorkSafe cited them specifically when it told the government recently that some of the regulations it had to work with "are so old" they were no longer relevant.

              Pesky regulations!

          • RedLogix

            doesn't represent a serious or alarming risk to you and me.

            If you are imply that I'm willing to minimise the hazard because I'm not personally involved, then you really need to produce some evidence of this. I looked at the composition of the 'ouvea premix' and applied a reasoned analysis. If you think I got that wrong then produce your own case.

            Speculating that I'm being dishonest is gutless.

            If some locals are skeptical, then they need to understand that’s just the cost of doing business – suck up those risks, OK?

            If the locals are being fed alarmist lies and are being misled into stressing about something that is unlikely to impact them – then exactly who is to blame do you think?

            There is a lesson to be learned from Fukushima here – it’s now well accepted that some 2000 premature deaths were caused by the stress, despair, depression, drug use and suicides caused by unnecessary evacuations from around the plant. In the meantime deaths due to radiation = 0.

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              If you are imply [sic] that I'm willing to minimise the hazard because I'm not personally involved, then you really need to produce some evidence of this.

              RL, clearly I've upset you and apologise for that. The hazard is what it is – expressing our opinions makes no difference to that.

              In my opinion your conclusion ("My conclusion is that it doesn't represent a serious or alarming risk to people.") is an opinion; one I can't entirely agree with.

              Also, in my opinion, my response to your opinion began with a statement of fact: "One thing's for certain – the aluminium dross distributed around Southland doesn't represent a serious or alarming risk to you and me." Although, to be fair, I only know that's a factual statement as it applies to me; I'm just assuming that you're (still) domiciled in Australia.

              If you would prefer, then I'm happy to amend my statement to read: 'One thing's for certain – the aluminium dross distributed around Southland doesn't represent a serious or alarming risk to you and me, and our comparative lack of proximity to said waste has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on our opinions of the risk(s) (or lack thereof) such waste might (or might not) pose to those living and/or working near the dross.'

              Bit clumsy, but I hope that covers it.

              Still, now that you've mentioned it, I can't help wondering if I'd be even more concerned about the risks (real and/or imagined) if I lived in Mataura. I mean, I like to think that I could be completely disinterested regardless, but then maybe I'm not the best person to judge that?

      • RedLogix 6.1.2

        Also from your link above:

        Therefore, and due to the relatively low release rate, classification of AlN for acute aquatic hazards based on the formation of NH3 is not possible.

        This at least confirms what I concluded above, that the hydrolysis of AIN is so slow that the rate of ammonia and hydrogen production are very unlikely to cause a hazard.

        As for the second part of that analysis around chronic toxicity, all of those calculations if I'm reading them correctly are based on the worst case scenario of high concentrations of AlN trapped in a fixed body of water, like a lake. And even then they only just manage to exceed the NOEC limits.

        In a river system this would just not apply, everything would just get flushed out to sea within days or weeks. And by then the concentrations would be so low there would be zero impact of any kind.

        There is an old saying that goes 'the solution to pollution is dilution'. And while it sounds dark – in many cases it's entirely true.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          There is an old saying that goes 'the solution to pollution is dilution'.

          Just as well it's an old saying. The capacity of spaceship Earth's atmosphere, and marine and terrestrial environments, to dilute the pollutants that civilisation churns out is vast, but not infinite – global warming makes that quite clear.

          And yet, if it's water soluble then down the sink with lots of water it goes – no matter the toxicity. I wonder, does NZ test for PFAS in drinking water?

          PFAS – Frequently Asked Questions

          The situation in New Zealand is on a much smaller scale compared to Australia, both in terms of contamination area and substance concentration. A 2013 study found that New Zealanders generally had PFOS levels in their blood that were lower than concentrations found in the blood of individuals in the USA, Canada, Germany and Australia. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) levels were similar or lower. New Zealand has used PFAS compounds in consumer and industrial applications, but has not manufactured the substances.



          • RedLogix

            I was careful to qualify my statement – dilution is certainly not a good solution in all cases.

            Understanding chemical and radiological hazard is a very complex topic, but I can summarise the three most important ideas as – impact, volatility and bioaccumulation. Each one of these must be present before a particular material represents a hazard.

            Impact – clearly different chemicals/isotopes have wildly differing biological outcomes, at hugely different concentrations. Understanding exactly how the material in question behaves in the body or environment is critical to evaluating the potential hazard.

            In many cases, especially where a material is a naturally occurring mineral anyway, sufficient dilution almost always means there is no possible impact. What your reference called the NOEC limit.

            Volatility relates to how easily the material moves around in the environment. The room you're in right now probably has hundreds of compounds that if they got into your body in sufficient quantity would be highly dangerous – but because they're immobile and can't get inside of you – they're perfectly safe.

            And the final aspect that must be present is bioaccumulation. If a material can be excreted from your body faster than it's being ingested, it's unlikely to cause significant harm. This is pretty much what your kidneys, liver and skin do for you all the time.

            Toxic hazard is really the aggregate of these three characteristics, and absent any one of them – there is no toxicity. And in the case of the oevea premix we were originally talking about – it looks like the toxic hazard is very low indeed.

            But as you've now widened the discussion to all possible chemicals that can be found in the environment – and I'm going to have to decline to do a toxic hazard analysis on all of them – I fully accept that there are many chemicals which are very problematic indeed, even at very low levels.

            One topic I've been following closely for some years now, is the alarming decline of male fertility observed worldwide that is not well understood. The most reasonable hypothesis is the presence of endocrine disruptors such a PABA in the environment. So by no means am I blind to the importance of understanding what we are putting into the environment.

            And of course this would be one of the key drivers of a society with abundant energy and 100% closed loop resource use.

          • greywarshark

            In reference to 6 1 2 1 – Something I have noticed before on this site is a tendency to stray from the point being examined, to include the situation in the rest of the world. While that should be in everybodys' minds, when thinking about N problems we have to think and act locally, and then take cognisance of the rest of the planet. Conflating all aspects of the problem may make it unmanageable.

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              You're right Grey, but imho storing aluminium dross (or SPL) in NZ is just one manifestation of a behavioural flaw. Many still don't/won't recognise the limited ability of natural ecosystems to buffer civilisation against its excesses.

              It's pretty hopeless (not for me personally; I'm thinking about the living conditions we’ve bequeathed to future generations.)

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          Let's just expand that quote a bit.

          Information that would allow linking the classification of ammonia to concentration levels relevant for classification of AlN [as an acute aquatic hazard] is not available. Therefore, and due to the relatively low release rate, classification of AlN for acute aquatic hazards based on the formation of NH3 is not possible.

          Imho the thrust the quoted passage is that it is not possible to accurately classify AlN as an acute aquatic hazard because the necessary information is not available. This clearly differs from your assertion that the ammonia formed from the hydrolysis of AlN is "very unlikely to cause a hazard".

          Tbh I'm struggling to understand how someone with your expertise and experience could make such an obvious mistake.

          Aluminium nitride – Ecotoxicological Summary
          Overall, the available data on the hydrolysis products of AlN suggest that aluminium nitride should be classified as “Aquatic Chronic 1, H410” (very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects).

          • RedLogix

            The document draws a clear distinction between 'acute' and 'chronic' effects. In a river system any release due to flooding of the oevea waste stockpile is going to be short lived. Floods are like that, they go up, they go down.

            Under the acute section it concludes:

            Read-across from other aluminium salts and from ammonia, as detailed above, suggests that AlN need not be classified for acute aquatic hazards.

            Essentially the reason why they conclude this is that because the release of ammonia due to AlN hydrolysis is so slow, and it breaks down so quickly in the environment:

            For ammonia, there is no harmonised classification for chronic aquatic hazards. However, joint entries into the CLP inventory claim a classification as “Aquatic Chronic 2, H411”. This is based on presumed rapid degradability (NH3, as a central element of the bio-geochemical nitrogen cycle, is constantly incorporated into biomass) …

            In a flowing waterway this is the context that is relevant. The conclusion you're quoting is under the chronic effect section that would be only reasonably applicable if the AlN was continuously present in large quantities in a slow moving or static body of water like a lake.

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              When NH3 is released from AlN exposed to water, it's presumed rapid degradation and incorporation into biomass could be part of the problem.

              My personal preference is to adhere to the precautionary principle when gauging the risks posed by storing thousands of tonnes of non-natural chemicals in a residential setting, and to keep an open mind.

              Dross protest and pragmatism

              The people of Mataura cannot wait to see the back of waste from the Tiwai aluminium smelter.

              Finally, six years after the dross began to arrive at the former paper mill beside the Mataura River, agreement has been reached to fast-track its removal.

              The work has begun, and it is supposed to be all trucked to Tiwai by the end of April. It will eventually be exported.

              This is, of course, a saga that should never have occurred. It is staggering that a potentially toxic substance could be stored on the banks of a major river in the middle of a town. The ouvea premix can generate poisonous ammonia gas when exposed to water.

              A total of 10,000 tonnes of the premix had been sitting in sacks in the mill.

              Concerned residents will not believe their front-door peril has disappeared until it actually goes, given the history.

              The dangers were especially apparent in February last year when water from the flooded river entered the mill, and again in July when a sprinkler burst. In 2018, Gore District Council chief executive Steve Parry said Mataura had come close to environmental disaster during a flash flood.

              Mataura residents, understandably, were anxious every time it rained heavily.

              The dross was taken over by Bahrain-based Taha Asia Pacific, and it began storing the premix in the mill in 2014 without resource consent.

              Concerned locals heard about this, and retrospective consent was given subject to a $2.6million bond. Taha went into liquidation in 2016 and the bond was never paid.

              If I lived in Matuara, then my preference would be to support the protesters.

              Report details consequences of landfill of toxic waste at Tiwai Point
              The smelter must also now deal with 22,000 tonnes of dross from Mataura and the elsewhere which is being returned to Tiwai over the next four years.

              …over the next four years.” Good – get a move on.

              Aluminium nitride (AlN) undergoes hydrolysis in contact with water, with a reaction half-life of 22 h.

              • RedLogix

                When NH3 is released from AlN exposed to water, it's presumed rapid degradation and incorporation into biomass could be part of the problem.

                None of the references looked at so far use the word 'rapid'.

                Aluminium nitride (AlN) undergoes hydrolysis in contact with water, with a reaction half-life of 22 h.

                Linky? If that's correct it's actually pretty slow, and aligns with everything I've been saying.

                The point is that worst case if the Mataura River had flooded, and swept away the entire stockpile into the river – virtually all of the ammonia release would be done and gone within less than a week. This isn't going to be a chronic event that hangs around for decades.

                And if it was confined to just soaking the stockpile in-situ the rate of ventilation in the old mill would be quite likely enough to disperse the ammonia gas in a reasonably controlled fashion, and pose only a moderate hazard locally. We're not talking an overwhelming cloud of gas expanding rapidly and out of control; there would almost certainly be time to respond to such an event in a safe manner.

                And keep in mind I was quite clear that storing it in such a location where it was vulnerable to flooding was a mistake and fixing that was an obvious way to mitigate most of of an already modest hazard.

                Precautionary principle is well and good when applied to unknown or novel threats – but it’s not an excuse for catastrophising either. Once we know what we’re up against we can act accordingly .

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Precautionary principle is well and good when applied to unknown or novel threats – but it’s not an excuse for catastrophising either.

                  Agreed, it is indeed well and good – as far as I know the storage of thousands of tonnes of aluminium dross on the banks of a river that is prone to flooding, in the middle of a small town, represents a novel situation. Gore District Council chief executive Steve Parry certainly perceived a threat ("Mataura had come close to environmental disaster during a flash flood") – I wonder how he might respond to a suggestion that he was "catastrophising"?

                  Once we know what we’re up against we can act accordingly.

                  Is it really expecting too much of the owners/managers of Taha Asia Pacific, the (now bankrupt) Bahrain-based company responsible for storing aluminium dross in Matuara, that they might have foreseen this could be “a mistake“? Of course, if they had then they might have felt obliged to inform those pesky regulators – ignorance is business bliss.

                  Aluminium nitride (AlN) undergoes hydrolysis in contact with water, with a reaction half-life of 22 h.


                  It's in the document linked to @ (and before that @6.1). You yourself linked to this document @6.1.2. Just search the page for "22".

                  • RedLogix

                    represents a novel situation.

                    Hardly. There is nothing unknown about the materials and the hazard is pretty well understood. If you really wanted to be thorough I'd take a couple of bags of the stuff and dump it into a tank of water in order to see exactly what happened.

                    That should tell us fairly quickly whether or not we actually have the potential for a catastrophe here.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Great suggestion – then we might be closer to knowing. Being thorough is not always the most profitable option, so I apply the precautionary principle when availing myself of for-profit services.

                      – as far as I know the storage of thousands of tonnes of aluminium dross on the banks of a river that is prone to flooding, in the middle of a small town, represents a novel situation.

                      Your response – “Hardly“. Well I’ll take your word for it. You’re not by any chance a businessman?

  7. RedLogix 7

    And in other Australian news – it's ridiculously fucking wet here on the East Coast.

    The past month here in Brissy has already seen a lot of rain, the past three days have been particularly extensive – and now this.

    Crazy country – either bone dry or up to your neck in it.

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