Orica leak not behind locals’ sickness, EPA states

The Environmental Protection Agency has rejected claims that a leak at Orica's Botany plant was behind contaminated water and local residents illness.

Despite Orica not notifying the EPA that it had inadvertently leaked 640 litres from its treatment plant on the same day locals complained of nausea and dizziness caused by contaminated water, the EPA says the two are not linked, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

''There was no environmental harm from the waste water treatment plant leak," an EPA spokesperson said.

EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford explained that the explosives manufacturer was under no obligation to report the leak.

''It was totally contained on site in a facility designed for that purpose and did not pose a potential or actual threat to the environment,'' Gifford said.

A Sydney Water spokesperson stated that the contamination was actually caused by bitumen entering the water pipe system.

''The fact is our system is a pressurised system, which means groundwater can't seep into it and our pipes are nowhere near the pipes that Orica have,'' the spokeswoman said.

''The test results confirmed concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and bitumen-lined pipes are a known source of PAH contamination in water.''

Orica has faced a series of leaks at its Port Botany site.

Early last year it saw a record mercury leak at the site, which breached emissions.

At its recent AGM the company directly addressed issues at the site.

Chairman Peter Duncan told Fairfax Media that a review of emissions by the Environment Protection Agency would be supported by the company.

I believe [Orica] can earn the confidence of the community and all our stakeholders,'' Duncan said.

Orica was presented with a petition by Botany Bay resident Chantal Snell, which contained 8,500 signatures and demanded independent testing of mercury levels. Relief valves containing mercury had released the chemical when pressure levels had become excessively high, which Orica put down to legacy issues at the factory.

"These are unfortunately an inheritance. I think it is going to be quite a number of years before we can say that they are completely eliminated," said Duncan.

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