$160,000 for toxic cloud

Nuplex to compensate community for industrial incident
EMERGENCY SCENE: CFA, police, Ambulance Victoria, council and the EPA outside Nuplex Industries on the night of the chemical leak.

NUPLEX has escaped conviction but been ordered to pay $160,000 for an industrial accident that caused some Wangaratta residents to experience vomiting and nausea.

The chemical manufacturing company appeared in Wangaratta Magistrates Court on Monday and pleaded guilty to one charge relating to the toxic cloud that escaped from its Gibson Street facility on December 19, 2011.

It was found the company polluted the atmosphere, making it harmful or potentially harmful to the health, welfare or safety of human beings, and was thereby guilty of an indictable offence pursuant to section 41 (1) (B) of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

All money paid by Nuplex will go towards local projects aimed at rehabilitating the environment in urban Wangaratta.

The ruling was agreed to by  both Nuplex and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), with Nuplex also ordered to pay $13,464 in costs to the EPA.

Jeremy Gobbo QC represented Nuplex and asked Magistrate Paul Smith, to spare the company a conviction.

He said a conviction would impact on Nuplex’s ability to obtain licences and contracts.

He also said Nuplex had entered a plea of guilty at the earliest possible date, had fully cooperated with authorities and had implemented safety measures to ensure a similar incident couldn’t happen again, even if it was a deliberate act.

Mr Smith agreed not to impose a conviction on Nuplex.

He said the company had no prior breaches of the Environment Protection Act and had learned its lessons.

“It was a significant event and a number of Wangaratta residents were affected,” Mr Smith said.

“One hundred residents evacuated their homes and a number of people experienced illness.

“The odor was very unpleasant indeed.

“It (the accident) was brought about by operator error.

“One of the workers has not followed the correct procedure.

“A system that should have been followed was not.

“Nuplex has incorporated the lessons learned across all sites.

“These steps have been taken voluntarily.”

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