Orica's record: 131 pollution licence breaches since 2000

CHANGES: The Greens have called for all parties to work together to improve pollution laws. –  Picture by Jonathan Carroll
CHANGES: The Greens have called for all parties to work together to improve pollution laws. – Picture by Jonathan Carroll

CHEMICAL company Orica has breached its pollution licence 131 times since 2000, figures compiled by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW show.

The council’s chief executive Pepe Clarke yesterday called for a ‘‘thorough review of pollution control measures in NSW’’, given the Kooragang Island plant’s history of licence breaches and the ‘‘disturbing’’ leaks reported in the past two weeks.

The Greens this week also will push for new legislation to require companies to notify authorities immediately they become aware of a dangerous incident.

According to the Office of Environment and Heritage website, companies need only notify the office ‘‘as soon as practicable’’ after becoming aware of the contamination, if the contamination meets certain criteria.

Orica took 16 hours to notify health and environment authorities after a leak of chromium six from the plant on August 8.

An emergency beacon alight in front of the Orica factory on Kooragang Island. - Picture by Max Mason-Hubers

“The time has come for the government and the opposition to put politics aside and work with the Greens to fix the laws that too readily allow companies to pollute our environment and harm our communities,” Greens MP and environment spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann said yesterday.

The conservation council document outlines the 131 pollution licence breaches at Orica’s Kooragang Island plant over the past decade.

The plant has breached its licence every year since 2000, with the exception of 2004.

There have been unlawful releases of arsenic in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and of hexavalent chromium in 2005.

The breaches have also included elevated levels of nitrogen oxides and ammonia.

At no stage between 2000 to 2010 did Orica receive a prevention, clean-up or penalty notice.

‘‘The history of pollution incidents at Orica over the past 10 years, combined with the consistent failure of the regulator to take meaningful compliance action, clearly shows that we cannot afford to be complacent about regulation of toxic pollution in this state,’’ Ms Clarke said.

A spokeswoman for Orica said all breaches were reported to the Environment Protection Authority and were a matter of public record.