Explosive company fined $500,000 toxic leak killed cattle

Explosive company fined $500,000 after toxic leak killed cattle

Explosives company Dyno Nobel has been slugged more than $500,000 for a toxic leak that killed cattle at a NSW Hunter Valley farm.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) took Dyno Nobel Asia Pacific to the Land and Environment Court over a leak at its Warkworth facility in 2015.

The court heard significant rainfall in January during that year caused water levels in a dam to rise.

A month later, water containing high levels of nitrate and ammonia escaped through a faulty valve, then onto a nearby farm and into a stock watering dam.

Five cattle on the farm were found dead after the incident, and another had partially aborted a calf.

The court was told about 80 cattle had been locked in a paddock where the only water source was the contaminated dam.

The cattle were mostly dairy cattle and the majority of them were in calf.

“The dead cattle were puffed up and swollen, and most had foaming salivation around their mouths and noses,” the court was told.
“The condition of the remaining cattle was described as ‘looking hollow and appearing to be thirsty’.

“Further, when the farmer opened the gate to the paddock, the remaining cattle rushed straight to water at the northern area of the farm.”

Environmentalist worried extent of incident not revealed
Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association president John Krey said it had been an alarming incident.

He said he was concerned the cattle deaths may have been kept quiet.

“This is the Hunter Valley and this should be pristine water, this should be pristine air,” he said.

“It is actually horrific, and yet we never heard a thing about it.
“That is headline news and every farmer, every grape grower, every irrigator in this district should be made aware of such contamination.”

The court fined Dyno Nobel $460,000 and ordered it pay the EPA’s $72,000 legal fees.

The court was told the company co-operated with investigators and paid the farmer $76,000 compensation.

Greens say details of leak ‘kept quiet’
A search of the EPA’s media releases for 2015 make no mention of the incident, despite investigators doing a site inspection in the days that followed.

The Greens Mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham has put a question on notice in parliament to ask about the leak.

He said it was a travesty that environment officials did not reveal the leak when it happened.

“It’s enormously alarming that this major pollution incident was not revealed to the public,” Mr Buckingham said.
“This is a pollution incident that has caused the deaths of cattle.

“It is absolutely horrific that locals didn’t know about this incident, that locals believe that the EPA kept this quiet.

“This could have been much, much worse. If this pollution can kill cattle, it may well have been able to kill children or other people.”

Mr Buckingham said he was suspicious about the incident.

“The EPA are quick to get on the phones and spruik what they want but when it comes to these serious offences, ones that deal with the death of livestock, major pollution incidents, well it is all hushed up. It is not good enough,” he said.

EPA welcomes fine
“The substantial penalty reflected the EPA’s rigorous pursuit of an appropriate result in court,” EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said.

“There was significant environmental harm in this incident and the EPA pursued the case with the appropriate level of dedication,” he said.
“There were no alarms or other systems to warn Dyno Nobel personnel of the discharge and, as a result, dangerous chemicals discharged from the facility and a local farmer felt the brunt of that on his property and his animals.

“This sort of environmental pollution is avoidable and completely unacceptable.”

The ABC has requested comment from Dyno Nobel.


Source: ABC Newcastle

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