On January 1, 2023, the New Zealand (NZ) Government imposed severe restrictions on foam extinguishing agents which contain PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The NZ Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement on December 21, 2022. According to the report, the NZ Government has banned the use of legacy PFAS foam extinguishing agents in unsealed systems (situations where discharge to the environment cannot be contained) from 1 January 2023 to prevent foam extinguishing agents containing PFAS from leaking into waterways or contaminating the soil. However, under the condition that the effluent of the foam extinguishing agent can be recovered and the discharge to the environment can be contained, foam extinguishing agents can continue to be used.
On December 16, 2020, the NZ Environmental Protection Agency decided to phase out the use of legacy PFAS-containing foam extinguishing agents, which may cause serious soil and water pollution, as follows:
- Abolished by December 31, 2022: Products used at accident sites of airplanes or trucks, etc., for which discharge to the environment cannot be contained
- Abolished by December 3, 2025: Products used in situations where discharge to the environment can be contained, such as fires at sealed fuel tanks
The above legal measures are based on the NZ Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act of 1996 (HSNO Act) as amended by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which abolishes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and PFOA-related compounds. Schedule 2A of the HSNO Act is a list of POPs. The HSNO Act prohibits the import into, manufacture in, and use in NZ of POPs listed in Schedule 2A, or products containing these POPs.
Case Study of Violation
In New Zealand, Channel Infrastructure NZ (formerly New Zealand Petroleum Refining Company) illegally used foam extinguishing agents for training at its Marsden Point oil refinery seven times between May and June 2021. The NZ Environmental Protection Agency filed seven complaints against the company under the HSNO Act and another seven under the Resource Management Act. As a result, the company was fined NZ $169,000 in November 2022.
New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency press release:
Environmental Protection Agency of New Zealand, Decision to Amend the Fire Fighting Chemicals Group Standard 2017: