Call for new guidelines after Orica fallout

PREMIER Barry O’Farrell should issue ‘‘clear and unambiguous guidelines’’ to all ministers on when they should reveal public health and safety matters to prevent a repeat of the Stockton chemical leak debacle, an inquiry has recommended.

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Environment Minister Robyn Parker again dismissed the NSW opposition’s calls yesterday for her to resign over her handling of the August 8 leak from Orica’s Kooragang Island plant, after the parliamentary inquiry found the community had ‘‘lost confidence’’ in the government and industry .

The inquiry’s report, released yesterday, made 24 findings and seven recommendations, including that clear public notification guidelines be issued to ministers and that it was ‘‘unacceptable’’ Ms Parker had waited nearly 24 hours to tell the public after learning of the hexavalent leak.

‘‘It is clear that the fact that the community was not provided adequate information regarding the incident from Orica or the NSW government in the days immediately following the leak had a significant and ongoing impact on those who live near the facility,’’ the report said.

‘‘It is regrettable that the community has lost confidence in local industry and the government.’’

The upper house inquiry committee noted that the revised results of swab samples taken by the Office of Environment and Heritage found about one kilogram of chromium six was emitted over Stockton, rather than the original estimate of between 10 kilograms and 20 kilograms.

The report said it was fortunate the amount emitted had been overestimated. ‘‘Had the errors been in the opposite direction, there could have been serious consequences for the health of Stockton residents,’’ the report said.

Ms Parker labelled the inquiry ‘‘unnecessary’’, and said the government had already commissioned an independent review of the leak.

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