A second toxic industrial accident at Orica’s Koorang Island facility has prompted the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to call for a public inquiry into industrial pollution regulation and safety.
The release of wastewater containing arsenic levels above the allowed licence concentrations into the Hunter River comes a little more than a week after plumes of hexavalent chromium leaked from the same facility.
“The two latest toxic industrial incidents occurring at this major industrial facility are a wakeup call that the State government needs a public inquiry into the state’s pollution laws, their monitoring and enforcement to stop it happening again,” CEO Pepe Clarke said today.
“There is a disturbing pattern emerging of an industry regularly using our rivers and the air we breathe as a dumping ground for chemicals such as arsenic, nitrogen oxide and ammonia.
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website reports Orica’s facility in Newcastle alone has breached its pollution licence 131 times since 2000, including unlawful releases of arsenic in 2009 and hexavalent chromium in 2006.
“However, since 2000 the EPA has not issued a single prevention, clean up or penalty notice for pollution to the Orica facility until the hexavalent chromium leak last week. The Authority needs better resourcing to keep watch on our behalf and hold industrial pollution in check.
“The Government must examine what is going wrong with pollution laws in the industrial sector so the health and wellbeing of our community and environment are protected.
“The terms of reference of the inquiry announced days ago do not go far enough. The inquiry must be expanded to examine how environmental pollution licences and their monitoring can prevent the risk of toxic incidents happening again and allow fair hearing of the concerns of communities like Stockton,” Mr Clarke said.
Photo: Edge of the Hunter River at Stockton. Peter Stoop/Sydney Morning Herald