21st March 2011  EPA MEDIA RELEASE   see previous story

A chemicals company with a plant at Matraville has pleaded guilty to a breach of its environment protection licence which resulted in 685 kg of ethylene oxide being released into the air. This had a low potential to cause harm to residents of Matraville and the environment.

The company – Huntsman Corporation Australia Pty Ltd – was prosecuted by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) and was penalised $28,000 and ordered to pay court costs of $40,000.

Director General of DECCW, Lisa Corbyn said that while the release of the gas had not caused any environmental damage and had not harmed human health – the company had breached its licence.

“It was fortunate in this case that the gas leak caused no actual harm, however there is no excuse for an event such as this,” Ms Corbyn said.

“This chemical may cause cancer and the company concerned has a responsibility to ensure that there is no breach of their licence conditions.”

The fine was imposed today by the Land and Environment Court. In his judgement Justice Craig said that the potential pollution arising from the offence was foreseeable but it was clear that the offence was not deliberately committed.

The $28,000 penalty is payable to Randwick City Council for use in its stormwater harvesting project at Chifley sports reserve. The company was also ordered to publish details of the offence in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Southern Courier

The company had identified possible causes for the event including inadequate alarms to problems in its production and errors by plant operators.

Huntsman has now implemented a number of measures to ensure this type of incident cannot happen again. These measures include upgrading the plant and implementing better systems for its operation.

Ms Corbyn said DECCW expects companies who are using chemicals with the potential to pollute the atmosphere to take every measure possible to prevent this happening.

“Clean air is fundamental to our health and the health of the environment,” she said.

“In this case, the factory is only a few hundred metres from houses and the community has a right to expect companies to operate in a way that is safe for their health and the environment.”

One Response to “Toxic gas emissions cost Huntsman $68,000”
  1. admin says:

    Hansard 23/8/11:
    Ms ROBYN PARKER: I want to provide the House with some further information. The track record of the Leader of the Opposition when he was environment Minister includes the Solar Bonus Scheme. On 28 October 2009 the Huntsman Corporation plant at Matraville in the electorate of Maroubra emitted into the atmosphere 685 kilograms of ethylene oxide, a toxic gas that at certain levels of concentration can lead to acute and chronic ill health. Who was the environment Minister? It was the Leader of the Opposition, and where was the Leader of the Opposition at that time when the residents of Matraville were exposed to a carcinogen? Surely, he donned the Superman cape and leapt into action. No, he did not. There was no response, no press release, no reported comments in the media and no speech to Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition set the standard for being sloppy after all. What a hypocrite. It has been 664 days since—

    The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Keira to order for the second time.

    Ms ROBYN PARKER: The Leader of the Opposition should explain why the people of Matraville are still waiting to hear from him. Not only did the Leader of the Opposition fail the people of Matraville, but those in the Opposition who were in Government at the time failed the people of New South Wales. We know about Labor’s merry-go-round of ministries: seven environment Ministers with 76 warnings between them. The one fact the Leader of the Opposition cannot ignore is this: If he had acted on the warnings he received and had changed the legislation the people of Stockton would have known sooner. That is why we have ordered a review and, unlike Labor members, who sat on their hands, the O’Farrell Government will act on it.

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