Orica fined $750,000 over chemical spills, safety breaches

Orica fined $750,000 over chemical spills, safety breaches

Orica's plant at Kooragang Island. (Image from archives)

Australia-based chemical giant Orica (ASX:ORI) has been hit with more than $750,000 in fines for a series of pollution incidents spanning from October 2010 to December 2011, as well as safety breaches at two of its sites in New South Wales.

The penalty is the largest ever issued by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for a matter that it prosecuted.

Orica, a global provider of commercial blasting systems, mining and tunnelling support solutions, had pleaded guilty to nine charges last year. The most controversial of them was a leak one kilogram of toxic Chromium 6, or hexavalent chromium, released over Stockton and onto some of its onsite workers on August 2011.

Speaking at the trial, Justice Rachel Pepper said the spills had the “potential to cause both environmental harm and serious harm to human safety”.

It also found that Orica’s delay in reporting the incident might have prevented action being taken in the immediate aftermath. However Pepper added that these delays were not “intentional or wilful”.

Orica’s executive head of global manufacturing Richard Hoggard reiterated the company’s regret for the incidents.

“We now have an opportunity to assess the progress Orica has made since 2011 and look ahead to further enhancements. We believe that Orica has come a long way,” Hoggard said in a company statement.

He added the firm had invested more than $200 million in the Kooragang site in the last three years, $95 million of which went to environmental improvements.