Australian Paper fined over spill

AUSTRALIAN Paper is conducting an engineering study of a fibreglass pipeline at Maryvale Mill following a 30,000 litre spill into the Latrobe River last year.

On 28 June a small section of the pipe carrying the mill’s trade wastewater to the Gippsland Water Factory failed and led to a spill on site.

The Environment Protection Authority Victoria has issued Australian Paper with a fine worth more than $7000 for breaching its licence conditions.

Most of the spill was contained in a billabong system, but an estimated 30,000 litres flowed into the Latrobe River before the discharge was stopped.

“Due to high flow rates within the Latrobe River at the time of the spill any environmental impact would have been negligible,” EPA Gippsland regional manager Emily Sanders said.

“However, the spill was clearly outside the parameters of the company’s licence and that is why EPA has acted under its Compliance and Enforcement Policy and fined the company over $7,000.

“The remainder of the spill was pumped from the billabong system to onsite treatment lagoons which are licenced to then discharge wastewater to the Latrobe River after it is treated.”

Australian Paper national manager of sustainability and communication Craig Dunn said the team had acted immediately, with the little environmental impact demonstrating an effective response.

He said the company had built a sand containment bank on site “as a short-term fail-safe mechanism in case of future issues”.

“A full engineering study of the pipeline is now well underway with the intention of replacing any sections of concern to prevent future problems,” Mr Dunn said.

“Australian Paper greatly values the EPA’s input into this incident.

“We take the maintenance of all our operating licences very seriously and are using the learning from this incident as an opportunity to further improve our environmental management systems.”

Ms Sanders said the EPA’s action should remind the industry there were clear rules and requirements that must be adhered to at all times.