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Environment Protection Authority

Pasminco fined for exceeding concentration limits for zinc

Media release: 23 December 2015

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued the Pasminco Cockle Creek Smelter Pty Ltd (Pasminco) with two fines and an official caution for exceeding the licensed concentration limit for zinc for two periods in March 2014.

 Pasminco holds an Environment Protection Licence (EPL # 5042) to allow the remediation of lands associated with the former lead smelter at Boolaroo in Lake Macquarie.

 NSW EPA Manager for the Hunter Region, Mr Adam Gilligan, said the licence sets strict concentration limits and monitoring requirements for water capture on site, treated at the onsite Water Treatment Plant (WTP), and then discharged to Cockle Creek as part of the remediation works.

 “Pasminco is required to submit an annual return to the EPA each year outlining its compliance with the EPL.

 The EPA has recently completed its review of Pasminco’s annual return, which showed that on two separate occasions the concentration of zinc within the discharges from the WTP exceeded the licensed concentration limit of 0.4mg/L.

 “Pasminco reported that the exceedances were due to a failure of instrumentation and incorrect pH in the waste water treatment plant,” Mr Gilligan said.

 “While these exceedances are unlikely to have a significant impact on the environment, Pasminco has a history of Official Cautions and Penalty Notices and needs to take more care in the maintenance of its equipment and monitoring.”

 Mr Gilligan said that in response the EPA had issued two ($1,500) penalty notices. The alleged offences pre-date the increase in the penalty notice amount to $15,000.

 “The EPA has also varied the Pasminco licence to include a pollution reduction program (PRP) requiring a study into the performance of the WTP and the EPA understands that Pasminco have since installed a pH balance system and appointed a third party to operate the WTP.

 “The EPA will take further action, potentially including legal proceedings, if further breaches occur,” said Mr Gilligan.

 The EPA is also continuing to investigate an incident on 19 November 2015 where a quantity of milky water was observed discharging from the Pasminco site. The results of sampling from that incident showed heavy metal levels in discharge did not present a concern for human health however the short and long term environmental impacts will form part of the EPA’s ongoing investigations.  

 Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.

 For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy


Contact: EPA Public Affairs Unit

Page last updated: 23 December 2015