Orica fights Yarwun pollution claims

Orica has announced it will fight accusations of cyanide pollution levelled at its Yarwun facility in Queensland.

The QLD Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) have issued complaints against the explosives manufacturer regarding its sodium cyanide facility in Yarwun.

In early March Orica initially came under investigation by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) for wastewater released from the Yarwun plant in Gladstone Harbour during the previous two months.

DERM then issued an order to Orica to cease water released unless authorised.

The explosives manufacturer is currently licenced to discharge waste containing one milligram of total cyanide per litre of water.

However Orica notified the Department is had carried out a number of discharges since January of around 2 milligrams per litre.

It went on to state that it was not currently exceeding the limit and the last incident on 22 February.

Later investigations found that there were no detectable levels of cyanide in the Harbour.

"Cyanide was not detected in water quality samples taken near the Orica discharge point on Friday," DERM director general Jim Reeves said.

"The detectable limit for cyanide is 0.004 milligrams per litre (mg/l). 

"Further results from samples taken on Thursday and Friday will be available later this week," he said.

Reeves added that DERM had carried out additional investigations for other non-compliant releases.

"DERM officers are onsite at Orica to monitor and ensure compliance prior to approving any discharge from the Orica cyanide plant."

Early last year traces of cyanide were also found in the city's stormwater drains near the Orica plant.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Resource Management, the breach was not uncovered by Orica reporting it, but rather through proactive compliance checks by the department.

"Initial investigations by DERM officers indicted there was no risk to the environment or public," a spokesperson said at the time.

Since this time the company has been under attack for the releases, with the DEHP bringing complaints against Orica under the Environmental Protection Act.

Orica says it will defend the complaints, adding that it believes there has been no environmental harm or risk to human health from the leaks.

It then referred to the previous DERM investigation which stated that the cyanide was diluted by the time it reached the harbour.

"There has been no reported fish kill in the vicinity of the discharge point to date, this tends to indicate that discharge has been diluted sufficiently to be within environmental limits.

"Limits for human exposure are higher than environmental limits and are therefore not likely to have been breached," the report said.

Orica went on to quote a later DERM report that stated "investigations reveal no detectable levels of cyanide from Orica Gladstone facility".


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