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Environment Protection Authority

NSW EPA fines Orica Australia $15,000 for breach of licence

Media release: 29 May 2017

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Orica Australia Pty Ltd $15,000 after a discharge from its Kooragang Island facility in Newcastle exceeded licenced limits for suspended solids and heavy metals in March 2017.

EPA Director Hunter Karen Marler said the likely cause of the breach was a build-up and then discharge of algae inside a pipe. The incident was reported to the EPA on 9 March 2017, a day after the incident.

“When the algae was released, it’s likely sediments were also dislodged, resulting in concentrations of suspended solids, zinc and arsenic in the effluent higher than the levels permitted on Orica’s environment protection licence,” said Ms Marler.

She said a smaller volume of effluent than normal was released on the day of the breach, which would have reduced any environmental impacts.

“While there is no evidence of environmental harm on this occasion, licensees must keep their discharges within licenced limits so that waterways are protected.

“It’s not the first time this has occurred at Orica’s Kooragang site. However, it’s positive to see the company is taking steps to prevent this happening again by increasing the frequency of pipe cleaning from yearly to quarterly.”

The EPA has previously taken action against Orica for exceeding effluent concentration limits, which were also attributed to algae build-up.

The company was fined $1,500 by the EPA in October 2013 and has been cautioned twice, most recently in December 2016.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.

Anyone with information about a pollution incident in the Newcastle area should call the EPA’s Environment Line on 131555.

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 29 May 2017