Bartter Enterprises makes a number of Enforceable Undertakings to the EPA after an ammonia leak at Beresfield

The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has agreed to accept a number of court enforceable undertakings made by Bartter Enterprises Pty Ltd (Bartter) following an ammonia leak at Bartter’s Beresfield factory in December 2016.

Bartter is a poultry production company that holds an Environment Protection Licence (EPL) from the EPA to carry out livestock processing activities at its Hawthorne Street premises.

On 1 December last year, repair works being carried out by contractors engaged and supervised by Bartter on an ammonia tank resulted in a small-scale ammonia gas leak at Bartter’s premises.

An automatic ammonia detection alarm was activated at 12.15pm. The affected plant equipment was isolated, and the premises evacuated as a safety precaution within 10 minutes. The leak was repaired by 12.30pm.

As a result of the incident, one employee was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.  FRNSW Hazmat and SafeWork NSW assessed the site, declaring it safe later that day.

Despite the role of a contracted third-party, Bartter, as the holder of the Environment Protection Licence, had a responsibility to ensure that all activities were carried out at the premises safely with regard for human health and the environment, and in compliance with the conditions of the EPL.

The EPA formed the view that two licence conditions of Bartter’s EPL had been breached: licensed activities were not carried out in a competent manner, and all equipment on the premises was not properly maintained and operated in a proper and efficient manner. Bartter acknowledged the EPA’s concerns.

In agreeing to accept Bartter’s undertakings, the EPA considered that Bartter had already commenced several proactive measures in relation to ammonia management at the plant before the incident, and has since confirmed to the EPA that further repair works and a series of additional steps have been taken including the installation of additional plant and equipment to prevent a reoccurrence.

Bartter has undertaken to contribute $100,000 to the Hunter Local Land Services’ Woodberry Swamp project. This project aims to better manage draining and tidal flows in the wetland area (located on the western side of the Hunter River Estuary between Maitland and Hexham) and so contribute to the wellbeing of the local waterway, as well as local flora and fauna.

Bartter has also undertaken to engage a qualified contractor to run an annual ammonia system integrity check for the next three years.

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, these undertakings may be enforced through the Land and Environment Court if there is a failure by Bartter to comply with their terms.