A multinational explosives manufacturer has been fined $460,000 after a misplaced pipe and a valve failure resulted in toxic wastewater flowing onto a neighbouring farm in NSW’s Hunter Valley, waterlogging a paddock and killing cattle.
Dyno Nobel Pty ltd entered guilty pleas during a NSW Land and Environment Court hearing this week after action by the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
Dyno Nobel produces nitrate products used in explosives. The company’s founder was Alfred Nobel, a swedish chemist who invented dynamite and the detonator in the mid-1800′s and later founded the world famous Nobel Prizes.
In January and February 2015, work on Dyno’s on-site wastewater collection dams resulted in wastewater flowing into the neighbouring farmer’s stock-watering dam and paddock, where cattle were grazing.
The wastewater also flowed towards the Hunter River, stopping 200m short from the major waterway.
On 24 February 2015, the farmer found the dam in the paddock was murky green, the paddock soaked and five of his cattle dead.
The carcasses were puffed up and swollen, with foam around their mouths and noses. The pasture in the affected paddock had also begun to die off.
Following a successful prosecution by the NSW EPA, on 31 May 2017 the Court fined Dyno Nobel $400,000 for pollution of waters and $60,000 for breaching a licence condition which requires it to carry out its activities in a competent manner.
The Court also ordered Dyno Nobel to publish notices in local and national newspapers detailing the offences and convictions, and to pay the EPA’s legal costs of $72,000 and investigation costs of $750.
EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said while Dyno Nobel had pleaded guilty to the charges in the first instance, the substantial penalty reflected the EPA’s rigorous pursuit of an appropriate result in court.
“There was significant environmental harm in this incident and the EPA pursued the case with the appropriate level of dedication,” Mr Gifford 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. We welcome this result in the Land and Environment Court and hope it serves as a warning to other facilities operating under an environment protection licence: if you break the rules, there will be consequences.”