27 July 2012 ~ Orica Australia appeared in the NSW Land Environment Court about four pollution incidents at its Kooragang Island Plant in 2010 and 2011. Orica previously pleaded guilty to charges brought by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the incidents.
Today the Court set down the penalty hearing for each of these matters from the 3rd to 14th of December 2012.
The EPA Acting Chief Environmental Regulator, Mark Gifford said the EPA’s prosecutions of Orica follow comprehensive investigations into the incidents.
The matters include:
- On 19 October 2010, an eroded pipe at one of Orica’s Nitric Acid Plants failed, resulting in the discharge of nitric acid from the Kooragang Island Plant into waters and into the air. Orica has pleaded guilty to breaching its Environment Protection Licence by failing to maintain its Nitric Acid Plant in a proper and efficient condition and to polluting waters.
- On 22 March 2011, an incident occurred after a blockage caused a valve in the Ammonium Nitrate Plant to stop working. This resulted in ammonium nitrate being discharged into the air across Kooragang Island and the Hunter River. Orica has pleaded guilty to breaching its Environment Protection Licence in that it failed to operate one of its Ammonium Nitrate Plants in a competent manner.
- On 17 June 2011, maintenance work at the Kooragang Island Plant caused the release of ammonia gas from the premises. The incident occurred after maintenance workers jackhammered through a pipe causing the ammonia release. Orica has pleaded guilty to breaching its Environment Protection Licence in that it failed to operate its ammonia plant in a competent manner.
- On 8 August 2011, an incident resulted in the discharge of steam containing a toxic chemical (chromium VI) from Orica’s Ammonia Plant. The steam was deposited over the premises and the neighbouring suburb of Stockton, Newcastle. In respect of this incident, Orica has pleaded guilty to breaching its Environment Protection Licence by failing to operate its Ammonia Plant in a proper and efficient manner. Orica has also pleaded guilty to the offence of failing to notify the EPA as soon as practicable after becoming aware of this incident.
The maximum penalty for each of the offences is $1,000,000.
As a direct result of the August 2011 pollution incident the NSW Government has strengthened the notification requirements for industry and increased the penalties for non compliance.