Orica hit with fine following Gladstone incident

Orica has been hit with a $432 000 fine after it pled guilty to charges of unauthorised water releases from its Gladstone facility.

Earlier this year concerns were raised after traces of cyanide were discovered in water samples from a stormwater drain outside 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.

Following this Orica announced that it was fighting the accusations of cyanide pollution levelled at its Yarwun facility in Queensland.

However it has now pleaded guilty to the charges.

The fine levelled against the explosives manufacturer will be used to help fund turtle research, conservation, and water monitoring initiatives in Gladstone harbour.

Andrew Powell, the state minister for environment and heritage protection stated that this is the first time a court imposed public benefits order under section 502 of the Environmental Protection Act had been granted to restore or enhance the environment.

“The Court has ordered that $100,000 will be allocated for turtle research at Port Curtis, $90,000 for Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Gladstone program and $60,000 for the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership,” Powell said.

Orica pled guilty to four charges of contravening a condition of a development approval.

This result finalises all current charges against Orica, which have been combined and rolled-up into the four contraventions of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.”

“One charge relates to an unauthorised release of cyanide through stormwater in 2010, which was detected during a proactive departmental site visit during a period of heavy rainfall,” he said.

“The other charges relate to unauthorised releases of effluent containing cyanide. 

“On 217 occasions between 20 March 2011 and 22 February 2012 Orica released effluent containing cyanide levels in excess of permit limits. Orica also failed to test for cyanide between 7 June 2010 and 29 February 2012, and on 50 occasions between 20 March 2011 and 27 May 2011 Orica failed to notify the department about unauthorised releases."

Orica added that "there was no evidence of any environmental damage as a result of the discharges [and] no conviction has been recorded.

The company went on to state that it will also commit $30 million to upgrade the Yarwun plant and improve stormwater retention systems.

It will also install perimeter berms, bunds, and drains, and improve its surface management and sealing at the site.

The explosives manufacturer was also ordered to pay more than $50 000 in legal and investigation costs.

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