Orica contamination levels increase in open air storage in Western Sydney


Liquid waste from the Orica chemical spill registered an increase in the level of chromium VI contamination, three to four days after the 1,200 tonnes of waste was moved from Stockton to open air storage in Homebush Bay.

New documents also reveal a secret teleconference between the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Office of Environment and Heritage, Orica, Transpacific and JR Richards & Sons was urgently ordered after a journalist began asking questions about the storage.

The State's most senior public servant, the Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, participated in the teleconference along with Senior Legal Counsel.

"This is concrete evidence the O'Farrell Government has deliberately sought to cover up the Orica chemical leak," Shadow Environment Minister, Luke Foley said tonight.

"The O'Farrell Government was aware testing showed chromium VI contamination had increased following storage in the open air at Homebush Bay and failed to act to protect residents.

"Instead of warning residents of the health risks, the O'Farrell Government ordered a secret teleconference with Orica and Transpacific to limit the political fall-out.

"It is obvious the O'Farrell Government has learnt nothing from its appalling mismanagement of the Orica chemical leak in Stockton, where it sat on health warnings for 54 hours."

Minutes of the Teleconference on September 2, 2011 state: "Ongoing sampling (of the Orica waste) showed that at about 3 to 4 days into the process, the level of chromium VI contamination was rising…"

Timeline: Tankers transported liquid waste from the Orica spill to Transpacific's treatment plant in Homebush Bay on 9 August – the day after the leak from the Orica plant.

The waste is stored in uncovered concrete bunds until tests show the level of chromium VI contamination is increasing. The waste is moved to a more secure area of the plant.

For three to four days the waste was exposed to the sun, leading to residue evaporating and being released into the atmosphere - placing residents in Newington and visitors to the Olympic Park precinct at potential risk.

One hour and 15 minutes after a journalist phones Transpacific on 2 September asking questions, a teleconference on the issue is ordered between the O'Farrell Government, Transpacific, Orica and waste removal company JR Richards & Sons.