Locals lose confidence in Orica after spill

September 16, 2011
Aerial view of Orica's Kooragang Island plant.

As time passes, the reasons the public might have for trusting chemical company Orica and the NSW environment minister Robyn Parker are evaporating.

On the night of August 8, highly toxic hexavalent chromium leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island plant and blew over the Newcastle suburb of Stockton.

Orica notified the NSW environment department at 10.45am the next morning. Orica representatives began doorknocking residents in Stockton on August 10. Parker says she was not told of the accident until that night.

Stockton residents were not officially notified of the accident until August 11.

Theresidents, angered at the company and the government’s response, have called for the an “independent monitoring system” for the plant, said the September 14 Newcastle Star.

The September 14 Newcastle Herald said the company was also “battling to contain the environmental effects of decades of arsenic sludge dumping on its Kooragang Island site”.

The arsenic is leaking though the groundwater into the Hunter River. The Herald uncovered the reports of the remediation attempts.

Newcastle City Greens councillor Michael Osborne told the Herald the council not been informed of Orica’s arsenic remediation efforts previously. “I have no confidence in Orica’s processes whatsoever,” he said.

On September 15, the Herald published an opinion piece by Parker, which defended her response to the Orica spill.

Parker claimed that since the leak there had been a “great deal of misinformation in the public arena”.

She claimed Orica’s delay in notifying the public of the August accident was “totally unacceptable”, saying Orica should have “done as they were supposed to and picked up the phone to Hazmat immediately”.

Yet she also said “current procedures were responsible for the delay”.

She said there was a need to “change inadequate laws” to “ensure the regulator is doing its job”. However, she claimed that when she was notified “all authorities were doing their job, as they always had.”

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