EPA fines Koppers $30,000 over alleged pollution incidents


The NSW Environment Protection Authority has fined Newcastle manufacturing company Koppers $30,000 over two alleged pollution incidents at their Mayfield plant in 2019.

Koppers processes coal tars for industrial uses, an activity which can produce noxious odours and harmful chemicals.

In July 2019, a tank which was being heated became pressurised and released noxious, odorous gases.

A nearby neighbour complained to the EPA.

The EPA immediately directed the company to cease the activities that led to the incident. Subsequent EPA investigations found there were no sensors in place to detect leaks from the tank.

In a separate incident at the Koppers plant in August 2019, while products were being transferred from one tank to another, a spill occurred. An EPA investigation found that not having adequate staff involved in the operation contributed to the spill.

Koppers has been fined $15,000 for each incident, for allegedly failing to operate its plant and equipment on the site in a proper and efficient manner and for the alleged offence of failing to operate their facility in a competent manner.

The EPA also has three other matters involving alleged pollution breaches at the plant currently before the NSW Land and Environment Court.

The EPA has previously required Koppers Plant in Mayfield North to implement better controls at their site to control odours and has issued a series of statutory notices and legally enforceable Pollution Reduction Programs for works to achieve this.

These included requiring Koppers to engage an expert mechanical engineer to assess the controls on storage tanks to ensure they are operating as designed. The recommendations of the report have resulted in improvement works which include:

Implementing an Audit Action Plan

  • Pressure relief vent improvements

  • Development of a vent Sensor Action Plan

  • Investigations into actions to prevent untreated tank emissions

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. In this instance the EPA issued a penalty notice. The notice recipient may pay the penalty notice, seek a review, or elect to have the matter determined by a court.

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