Government forced to call inquiry into toxic chemical leak at Stockton

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The Labor Opposition has been calling for an independent review into the release of the highly dangerous chemical hexavalent chromium into Stockton – and the O’Farrell Government has tonight conceded an inquiry must take place.

“The Labor Opposition has been calling for an independent investigation following the release of toxic airborne chemical into Stockton and we welcome the Government’s decision to hold an inquiry,” NSW Opposition Leader, John Robertson said.

“This inquiry is an admission of the Environment Minister’s dereliction of duty over the course of this week.

“The inquiry should examine the events of this week following the release of dangerous airborne chemicals into Stockton.

“In particular, the inquiry should investigate the decision of the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker to wait 54 hours before informing Stockton residents about the toxic chemical released into their community.”

Shadow Minister for the Environment, Luke Foley said the inquiry should address the Environment Minister and Government’s failure to act over the major public safety issue.

“The purpose of this inquiry must be to ensure this sort of cover up never happens again,” Mr Foley said.

“The Minister for the Environment, Premier and Health Minister all have very serious questions to answer about the Government’s handling of this public safety threat in Stockton.”

The NSW Health warning on the leak released today tells residents to: Wash any yellowish brown droplets on cars, outdoor objects or surfaces with tap water; Don’t drink water from rain water tanks; Don’t eat home grown leafy vegetables or fruits; Wash all home grown root vegetables; Wash your hands before eating or smoking after being outside; and Prevent your children from playing in the garden unless the lawn is washed by strong rain or tap water.

Timeline:

6.00pm, Monday 8 August - Orica ammonium nitrate facility near Stockton releases plumes of hexavalent chromium into the air.

10.30am, Tuesday 9 August - Office of Environment and Heritage notified of the leak and dispatches staff to the site to inspect and collect samples.

3.27pm, Thursday 11 August - Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker informs the public of the dangerous incident in a Ministerial Statement on the last Parliamentary sitting day for a week.