Orica continues investigation into chemical spills

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Orica officials have updated the community on the two chemical leaks last month from its Kooragang Island plant.

The first spill in early August resulted in a spray of hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, covering parts of Stockton.

The second involved a discharge of 1.2 megalitres of arsenic containing effluent into the Hunter River.

Orica officials and Government agencies have been tight lipped about the leaks over the last month, with both parties waiting on the results of on-going inquiries.

Two investigations are currently underway into the controversy, one focusing on Orica’s handling of the spills and their environmental impact, and another focusing on the Government’s handling.

Site manager Stuart Newman told the Newcastle Herald today that as much as 10kg of dissolved hexavalent chromium is believed to have escaped the front stack of Orica’s ammonia plant in the first spill.

Newman said after the plant was washed down from the first leak arsenic levels in Orica’s waste holding ponds had risen above the legal discharge limit of 0.05 milligrams a litre.

Orica discharges the waste into the Hunter River under a state government licence, but Newman said 1.2 million litres of water had been discharged on Friday 19 August before the problem was noticed and stopped.

Newman said more exact details on the mishap were a matter for official inquiries, and the environmental health of Stockton was important for the company because more than a dozen of its employees lived there.

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