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Environment Protection Authority

NSW EPA fines Unilever Australia $15,000 for soda ash leak

Media release: 10 May 2016

  The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Unilever Australia (Unilever) $15,000 after soda ash leaked from a silo at the company’s North Rocks premises.

The leak, which was first discovered during an EPA inspection on 15 April 2016, was caused by a faulty valve on the silo. 

EPA Acting Director Metro Greg Sheehy said that EPA officers observed the soda ash leaking onto the ground, entering two onsite stormwater drains which lead to an onsite holding pond and becoming airborne.

“The EPA’s assessment is that the risk of offsite impacts in the community is very low because soda ash did not leave the premises,” he said.

“However the EPA is concerned about Unilever’s failure to follow strict conditions around maintaining equipment. Failing to do so contravenes their Environment Protection Licence and the EPA has taken action,” he said.

“Soda ash can pose a risk if it does enter the environment so it’s vital that companies adhere to their licence requirements,” Mr Sheehy said.

In addition to issuing Unilever with a $15,000 fine, the EPA also issued Unilever with an official clean up notice.

“A follow up inspection by EPA officers on 21 April 2016 revealed that more soda ash had leaked onto the ground – this is despite Unilever advising us the area was clean,” Mr Sheehy said.

The soda ash has now been cleaned up and Unilever have taken steps to prevent further soda ash leaks by having spare parts on hand for future repairs.

Soda ash (sodium carbonate) is a common industrial chemical used to manufacture glass as well as in soaps and textiles.

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.

The EPA must also take a range of factors into account before delivering a proportionate regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, whether or not there are any real or potential health impacts, if the action of the offender was deliberate, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 10 May 2016