NSW flags tougher laws following Orica spills

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Orica said it has welcomed new laws forcing companies to report pollution breaches immediately or face possible $2 million fines.

The changes were announced on Wednesday following the Government’s publication of a report into Orica’s Kooragang Island chemical leak on August 8.

The leak was the first in a series for Orica, and resulted in a spray of hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, covering parts of Stockton.

Both Orica and the NSW Government were strongly criticised for the leak, particularly for the delays in Orica and the Government’s reporting of it.

Orica reported the leak to the Government 16 hours after it happened.

Deakin University life and environment sciences lecturer Trevor Thornton, an expert in waste management, told Australian Mining the incident should have been reported earlier.

“I think that delay was too long, it should have been reported earlier,” he said.

Orica CEO Graeme Liebelt said in a statement yesterday environmental rules were a large part of the company’s work and it supported regulatory changes.

“The regulatory regime is integral to our operations and we support action to advance this system,” he said.

“We have been working diligently since the incident to address concerns, particularly those regarding emergency response protocols and engagement with the community.”

Current laws require companies report chemical incidents “as soon as practicable” but the new changes will stipulate that incidents be reported immediately.

A little over a week after Orica’s August 8 hexavalent chromium leak the company admitted to a discharge of 1.2 megalitres of arsenic containing effluent into the Hunter River.

In late September it also flagged a leak of mercury at higher than allowed levels at a plant in Port Botany.

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