BlueScope Steel slapped with licence breach fines

Australian steel producer BlueScope Steel has been issued two penalty infringement notices totalling $3,000 by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for breaching two conditions of its Environment Protection Licence.

The company failed to operate plant and equipment in a proper and efficient manner, and exceeded permissible limits for cyanide in water discharges during a Stave Replacement Program at Number Five Blast Furnace in May 2014, said EPA in a statement.

As a result, blast furnace gas condensate with higher than expected levels of cyanide was discharged to a storm water drain connected to Port Kembla inner harbour and resulted in a fish kill.

BlueScope promptly reported the incident to the EPA and implemented measures to minimise harm to the environment.

An EPA investigation found that although BlueScope was aware that increased cyanide levels could occur in water discharges during the maintenance work, the company believed their operational procedures were adequate to manage the environmental risks.

“Testing conducted by the EPA shortly after the incident found a cyanide concentration of 0.54 milligrams per litre, which is considerably above the permitted licence limit of 0.2milligrams per litre,” said EPA Illawarra manager Peter Bloem.

“Approximately 30 dead or dying fish were also observed in the drain.  There were no observed effects on Port Kembla harbour.”

BlueScope has since put in place additional controls and updated its operating procedures.

In February, the company was also issued an infringement notice of $1,500 and told to undertake a pollution reduction program over a separate water pollution incident occurred in July 2014.

The incident involved the discharge of coke ovens gas condensate containing cyanide to the same drain and also resulted in a fish kill.