Newcastle company fined $15,000 for water pollution

A chemical and material manufacturer has been fined after spilling coal tar pitch onto the wharf at the Port of Newcastle.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fined Koppers Carbon Materials and Chemicals $15,000 for the incident, the largest fine the EPA can issue under its legislation.

About 2,000 litres of pitch was allegedly sprayed onto the wharf and the tanker, with some going into the Hunter River while the coal tar pitch was being transferred from the tanker to the main Koppers plant, in March.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations Adam Gilligan said Koppers had a duty to ensure dangerous goods such as coal tar pitch were handled appropriately.

“This is an environmentally hazardous substance and could be damaging to the Hunter River’s ecosystem with sensitive plants and animals living in the river,” Mr Gilligan said.

“While there were some countermeasures in place, including a bund around the area to capture potential spills, some of the tar pitch sprayed outside the contained area and into the harbour.

“The environment protection measures in place weren’t adequate to address the risks in this situation.”

Koppers arranged a clean-up of the surrounding area of the riverbed and has changed its practices to prevent an incident like this from happening again.

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, legally binding pollution reduction programs, enforceable undertakings and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy on the EPA website. If you suspect someone is doing the wrong thing, phone the NSW EPA’s 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.