Premier Barry O’Farrell and Environment Minister, Robyn Parker,  are to be congratulated on their adoption of  the O’Reilly Report (see media release below) but now it is time to turn their attention to North Botany Bay where we have the UNACCEPTABLE RISK of the HCB waste stockpile, transport risks associated with the Chlorine Plant, issues with standard monitoring of the site (eg. sampling of run-off after rain), the contamination of the Botany Aquifer expected to take more than a 100 years to clean up, the associated risks of long term exposure to stack emissions from this plant, the Mercury cleanup and the HCBD cleanup.

Communication protocols for preparedness and notification of pollution events need to be thoroughly reviewed.  Current communications are controlled by Orica with only occasional media releases from the EPA and even rarer inclusions from NSW Health.   The community needs to hear from Government Agencies it can  trust like the EPA and HEALTH and Workcover (the coordinating agency for MHFs )

Recommendations relevant State-wide  from O’Reilly Report:  Read the full  O’Reilly Report

Recommendation: 7 

The Environment Protection and Regulation Group, by Administrative Order be created separately from OEH as an independent Environmental Regulatory Authority headed by a Chief Environmental Regulator who has appropriate qualifications and experience. 

An Independent Board be established whose membership be drawn from people with regulatory expertise as well as representatives from community interests.

Consideration is given to establishing community reference groups at strategic locations across NSW to assist the Authority in its deliberations.

The Director General DPC review what other existing functions within OEH should also be transferred to the proposed independent Environmental Regulatory Authority.

The proposed independent Environmental Regulatory Authority has its corporate service requirements met through OEH’s existing corporate services division.

Recommendation: 5
The Protection of the Environment Operations Act (1997) and any associated regulations are amended to allow in the event of a hazardous incident the Office of Environment, on advice from the Chief Health Officer to direct the company responsible for the activity to fund NSW Health for an independent analysis of the health risks associated with a hazardous incident. NB to be read in conjunction with Rec 7

Recommendation: 1
Part 5.7 of the POEO Act 1997 section 148(2) be amended to read “A person carrying on the activity and becoming aware of the incident must immediately or within one hour of the incident occurring notify the appropriate regulatory authority of the incident and all relevant information about it”. • R2.2 of the POEO should remain as it relates to the licensee must provide written details of the notification within 7 days of the date on which the incident occurred.  All Company associated emergency plans should be amended accordingly.

Recommendation: 2
Irrespective of whether an emergency is declared or the accident is determined to be an Incident, when a hazardous material spill occurs which is not confined to the plant and impacts on neighbours be they other business houses or the community, and requires a coordinated inter-agency response, the community engagement system (PIFAC) will be activated immediately the incident becomes known.

Recommendation: 3
The MOU between OEH and FRNSW be amended to make it mandatory that immediately or within one hour of becoming aware of a hazardous material spill the agency who receives the notification must notify the other party covered by the MOU.

Recommendation: 4

The Office of Environment and Heritage in concert with the Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage and her office and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet review the processes and time frame for the submission of information which falls under the ‘Early Alert’ procedure.

Recommendation: 9
Periodically, Emergency Response Exercises be developed and implemented to incorporate both the media and the public as part of the exercise to test and evaluate the most appropriate means of communication, the clarity of information, its timeliness and public satisfaction levels.

 

Recommendation: 6
WorkCover review its notification system and associated protocols. WorkCover to ensure the content of initial training and refresher training provided to staff of the Strategic Assessment Centre including the relevance of the template of questions to
be asked of the notifier

________________________________________________________________

Tough new pollution laws: O’Reilly report accepted in full (Premier’s Media Release)

5 October 2011

The NSW Government today announced tough new pollution laws, including requiring immediate notification of pollution incidents and a doubling of fines to $2 million for failing to do so. It will also urgently establish an environmental monitoring network for the Lower Hunter area.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister for the Environment Robyn Parker said the NSW Government would accept all the recommendations of the O’Reilly report into the incident at the Orica plant at Kooragang Island on 8 August 2011.

“The people of Stockton were let down and went through unnecessary worry and frustration as a result of this incident which is most regrettable,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“The incident highlighted weaknesses in the State’s environmental protection laws and my Government is taking urgent action to correct those faults.

“These new laws will be among the toughest in the nation and are designed to ensure companies can no longer flout the State’s pollution laws and put the public at risk.”

Legislation to be introduced into Parliament next week will implement recommendations of the O’Reilly report including:

  • Requiring pollution incidents to be immediately reported, not notified ‘as soon as practicable’;
  • Establishing the Environmental Protection Authority as an independent, statutory authority headed by a Chief Environmental Regulator to better regulate polluting industries; and,
  • Improving procedures to require improved public notification, community engagement and emergency planning and response exercises around pollution incidents.

In addition, the legislation will also:

  • Double to $2 million the maximum penalty for failing to report an incident immediately;
  • Require notification of pollution incidents to the EPA, NSW Health, NSW Fire and Rescue, WorkCover, NSW Police and the local council;
  • Urgently establish an industry-funded network of environmental monitors for communities adjacent to the heavy industrial precinct of the Lower Hunter;
  • Expand community ‘right to know’ by requiring industry make its monitoring results available to the public and expanding the information on the EPA’s public register;
  • Create a community advisory committee for the people of Newcastle, particularly the suburbs of Stockton and Mayfield; and,
  • Clarify the EPA’s powers to conduct mandatory environmental audits.

Mr O’Farrell said the Lower Hunter community, especially around Stockton and Mayfield, can be assured of up to date information about air quality with the urgent establishment of an environmental monitoring network.

The EPA will consult with the local community and industry on the development of the monitoring network.

“This strong package of changes will give the EPA back its bite,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“The new Chief Environmental Regulator will ensure companies which deal with toxic materials do so with public safety as their priority.

“Companies with environmental licences will be required to have pollution incident management response plans in place which include community notification and communication protocols.

“The creation of these emergency management plans will ensure protocols are in place for public notifications and warnings as directed by the relevant authorities, including the EPA, NSW Health, NSW Fire and Rescue and the NSW Police.

“Inter-agency communication is highlighted as an issue in the O’Reilly report and it is important the agreements already in place between these agencies are clarified to ensure the roles, responsibilities and contact arrangements for responding to pollution incidents are clear to everyone involved,” he said.

Ms Parker said as part of the NSW Government‟s comprehensive response she directed the EPA to establish a new community advisory and consultative committee in the Lower Hunter to help co-ordinate information between residents and local industry.

“One of their first tasks will be to participate in the design and establishment of a new industry funded environmental monitoring network for the areas in and around Kooragang,” Ms Parker said.

“While it’s important to remember that according to the Chief Health Officer the recent incidents involving Orica have not resulted in any health impacts to locals, they have highlighted the need for better community information – and the new laws will deliver it,” Ms Parker said.

 


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