Second chemical leak at Australian plant

Aug 21, 2011
File photo shows Greenpeace activists filling drums with toxic waste dumped by chemical giant Orica (formerly ICI Australia) in Homebush Bay near Sydney. The Australian firm has admitted that one of its sites had leaked toxic compounds for the second time in two weeks.

An Australian chemical company admitted Saturday that one of its sites had leaked toxic compounds for the second time in two weeks.

Orica said that effluent containing higher than allowable levels of arsenic poured from its Kooragang Island site into the Hunter River near Newcastle some 120 kilometres (74 miles) north of Sydney on Friday.

The leak followed an accidental airborne release on August 8 of what the company said was a small amount of the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium over Kooragang and the neighbouring suburb of Stockton.

"It's a minor leak," a spokeswoman for Orica told AFP of the arsenic spill, which government officials have said poses no health risk as only chronic, high level exposure to the element is linked to cancer and other disease.

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell said both leaks would be investigated by an independent inquiry.

"I'm angry and annoyed at a second breach of environmental laws by Orica, the second in a fortnight, which raises again and also threats to the environment," O'Farrell said.

Orica held a public meeting on Thursday to address residents' anger over delays in informing them of the leak of hexavalent chromium, which can cause cancer in people exposed to high levels for prolonged periods.

Australian-owned Orica, which operates in 50 countries, reported the leak to the government's environmental office 16 hours after it happened, within the legal limit of 24 hours, but authorities did not issue a public warning for three days.

have said there is no health risk to Stockton residents from the leak.

American environmental activist Erin Brockovich, who became a household name after a movie starring Julia Roberts was made of her battle to reveal hexavalent poisoning in the US, has been invited to tour Stockton.

Explore further: Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

State sets goal for limiting drinking water pollutant

Jul 30, 2011

The California Environmental Protection Agency has issued the nation's first public health goal for hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing heavy metal made infamous after activist Erin Brockovich sued in 1993 over contaminated ...

Chromium health risk study not disclosed

Feb 24, 2006

Researchers at George Washington University say scientists working for the chromium industry withheld information on the metal's possible health risks.

Percolating a solution to hexavalent chromium

Oct 12, 2010

The metal chromium is an essential nutrient for plant and animal metabolism, but it can accumulate to toxic and hazardous levels in the environment when discharged in industrial waste water; a point made infamous by the movie ...

Recommended for you

New research on Earth's carbon budget

10 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...