Orica chemical leak scandal - Minister kept toxicology tests secret


NSW Health has admitted that, within the last 48 hours, a further round of toxicology testing has been ordered to determine the longer terms effects of the Orica chemical leak.

The news raises questions about claims from the Environment Minister yesterday that 'there is no public health risk in Stockton'.

Under intense questioning at a community meeting in Stockton last night, a NSW Health official revealed that a new round of 'worst case scenario testing' was underway and the results will be available in a week's time.

"The Environment Minister was asked five separate questions about her handling of the Orica leak yesterday and said absolutely nothing about this new round of toxicology tests," said Opposition Leader John Robertson.

"On the one hand we have the Environment Minister saying there is no problem and everyone did everything right; on the other hand, the health department clearly believes that the evidence warrants further chemical testing."

In a further new development, the script used by Orica representatives while doorknocking residents has been leaked to the media, revealing the company attempted to downplay the risks associated with the leak of hexavalent chromium. The script states: "Please do not be too concerned. We have consulted with our internal medical and occupational hygiene professionals and they have advised that there is little to no risk from this substance.."

"Orica employees were clearly downplaying the risks to residents whilst doorknocking, despite that fact that in the early stages, no one had any way of knowing how serious the risks might be," said Mr Robertson.

The Opposition is calling on the Government to release all documents relating to the Orica chemical leak including toxicology reports, EPA's assessments, health department briefings and alerts and materials generated internally by Orica in response to the incident.

"The Minister has been caught out withholding information again – it's time for the Government to stop spinning and release all documents relating to the Orica leak," said Mr Robertson.

"There is still far too much information that is being kept secret from residents and the public."

"We know the Environment Minster knew about the leak of hexavalent chromium for at least 20 hours before she disclosed the incident to the public," said Shadow Minister for Environment Luke Foley.

"We also know that Minister Parker has changed her story three times about when she was first told about the leak.

"What we don't know, is why the Minister sat on this information while parents in Stockton allowed their children to play outdoors, completely unaware of the dangers; or why the Minister continues to hold back information from the public."