DERM to invesitgate Orica

Aerial photography of Gladstone region taken February 27th, 2011: Orica.
Aerial photography of Gladstone region taken February 27th, 2011: Orica. Chrissy Harris

ORICA is being investigated by the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) for alleged unauthorised waste water releases in January and February from their Yarwun chemical plant.

The Department issued an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) last night to Orica Australia Pty Ltd to cease wastewater releases to a Trade Waste Facility, unless authorised by DERM. Accordingly, the Department has moved to immediately commence a regulatory investigation and is executing warrants to obtain all relevant evidence.

Department of Environment and Resource Management Associate Director General Terry Wall said water samples were collected last night from Orica's facility. 

He said Orica, which commenced operations in Gladstone in 1990, operate under a Development Approval, issued by the department, which regulates the release of waste water to Gladstone Harbour through the Yarwun Trade Waste Facility.

"Orica is licensed to discharge wastewater containing 1 milligram per litre of total cyanide via a trade waste facility," Mr Wall said.

"The company has advised that a number of discharges of waste water have occurred since January with concentrations of around 2 milligrams per litre of Total Cyanide.  Orica advises it is not currently exceeding the licence limit and the last recorded exceedance was on 22 February 2012."

He said waste water was released via a diffuser which significantly dilutes the discharges before it reaches the harbour. 

"Cyanide generally has an immediate effect on fish and high levels result in large fish kills.  There has been no reported fish kill in the vicinity of the discharge point to date.  This tends to indicate that discharge has been diluted sufficiently to be within environmental limits," Mr Wall said.

Limits for human exposure are higher than environmental limits and are therefore Mr Wall sais it was not likely to have been breached.

"Investigations are at an early stage and definitive conclusions will not be able to be drawn until laboratory results are returned.

"The department is concerned that Orica may have failed to notify the Department as is required under their development approval which, if confirmed, would represent a serious offence," Mr Wall said.

DERM is set to undertake further water quality, sediment and fish sampling from Gladstone Harbour in the vicinity of the discharge point today to collect evidence of any harm to the environment.  

"The company will be prevented from further discharging off-site until such time as DERM is satisfied appropriate controls are in place to ensure the company can meet its obligations."

The maximum penalty for breaching a development approval under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 is $166,500 for an individual and $832,500 for a company.

Orica is one of the largest manufacturers of sodium cyanide in the world producing around 95,000 tonnes per annum. Sodium cyanide is principally used as a leaching agent in the gold mining industry.

Members of the community can report concerns to the departments Pollution Hotline 1300 130 372.

YESTERDAY'S announcement that Orica has released up to double the acceptable level of cyanide in its waste water is just another controversy in its chequered track record.

The company has been involved in a number of environmental breaches in recent years, both in Gladstone and in other locations such as Newcastle.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management is prosecuting a case against Orica for a breach in 2008. That case is before a Magistrates Court.

DERM associate director general Terry Walls said the company had also been involved in various breaches in
2007, 2010 and 2011.

Mr Walls, who refused to comment on whether Orica had a poor culture of environmental standards, said: "I can only comment that... certainly, there have been a number of breaches over recent years.

"All we can do is to work as appropriately as we can with companies and ensure that when we investigate and reach a conclusion we deal with them."

Topics:  department of environment and resource management orica wastewater

Police, man threatening self harm, involved in ten hour siege

Police generic, crime scene.  Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times

From 8.45pm trained negotiators spoke with a man at Oregon Ct.

'Best markets yet': Big sales at CBD markets: Photos

Jess Fairall and Krista Verlis at the Gladstone City Farmer's Markets.

The Gladstone CBD came alive today.

Santos sales boost softens blow of slumping oil price

CLAWING BACK: Santos reports a strong third quarter position off the back of bigger sales out of GLNG.

Revenue from LNG sales was $US227 million.

Local Partners

'Best markets yet': Big sales at CBD markets: Photos

THE smell of fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables waft through the Gladstone CBD for the second City Farmer's Markets today.

Your chance to win

Learn More

Former Split Enz front man Tim Finn finds new niche

Singer Tim Finn has written the music for theatre production Ladies in Black.

Musician finds his way to theatre

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Tim Finn headlining at Airlie Beach Music Festival

Music veteran Tim Finn from New Zealand will headline the Airlie Beach Music Festival.

Tim Finn: "It's the kind of festival that artists love"

Leonardo DiCaprio nearly drowned while filming

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio

Oscar winner almost drowned in Galapagos

Miranda Kerr to wed next year

Supermodel Miranda Kerr

Supermodel and Snapchat founder to wed

What's on the small screen this week

Georgia Love pictured in a scene from The Bachelorette finale.

TWO big reality shows wrap up this week while

Brad Pitt won't file legal response to divorce petition

Brad reportedly refused to send off the paperwork

Azealia Banks won't take legal action against Russell Crowe

Rapper Azealia Banks

Rapper drops legal action against Russell Crowe

Brad Pitt meets with his kids amid divorce proceedings

Actor Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt has met up with his oldest son Maddox

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

Push to sell homes that flooded Gladstone's market

Suburban housing in Glenvale, Toowoomba, Friday, October 17, 2014. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle

URGENT push to cash-up first home buyers investing in Gladstone.

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

What our mayor thinks of the new draft SEQPlan

The plan to use the innovative technology as part of the new Maroochydore CBD was cemented on site today when Mayor Mark Jamieson and Envac Asia Region president Chun Yong Ha formally signed the contract for the $20 million underground waste collection system.

New plan accommodates Sunshine Coast Council's vision for growth.