Orica still battling to contain chemical leaks

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Explosives company Orica is still battling to contain the environmental effects from arsenic leaks at its Kooragang Island site.

Around 15,000 tonnes of material has already been removed from a former sludge pit at the plant, but groundwater arsenic is still moving through the water system.

Orica said it planned to inject 20 tonnes of dissolved iron compounds into the groundwater to neutralise the arsenic in the soil.

If the measure fails the company said an underground barrier was proposed to stop the movement of arsenic.

Last month Orica admitted to a leak of potentially carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, and a second discharge less than a fortnight later of 1.2 million litres of arsenic containing effluent into the Hunter River.   

The company was also under fire after it said attempts to clean up toxic mercury from a site near Botany Bay were not working.

Orica spokesperson Nicole Ekert told Australian Mining while its soil washing effort at Botany Bay had been successful in pilot trials it had not worked in the larger operation.

“Unfortunately the soil washing technology in a full scale plant has not been able to sustain adequate reliable operation and Orica has decided to suspend the works,” she said.

She said the company understood the community concern the chemical leaks had caused.

“Orica understands that the incident at Kooragang Island has caused concern to the community and acknowledge their concerns regarding our response to this incident.”

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