$160,000 fine for chemicals maker

Chemical manufacturer Nuplex has been fined $160,000 after pleading guilty to a pollution charge related to a spill at its Victorian factory in 2011.

In a statement the VIC Environmental Protection Agency said the charge related to the release of chemical vapours in December 2011 at the company's Wangaratta plant north-east of Melbourne.


“The release of chemical vapours occurred when, as a result of operator error, materials used in the creation of a textile-coating material were manually added to the incorrect tank at the site and reacted, resulting in a spill and release of chemical vapours,” the watchdog said.


“The odours impacted the residential area to the north west of the Nuplex site, and resulted in the evacuation of a number of residents as a precaution. Some of these residents reported irritated eyes, sore throats, coughs, nausea, headaches and anxiety, but were discharged with no lasting injury.”


Without imposing a conviction, the court ordered Nuplex to pay $160,000 to the Rural City of Wangaratta, and the funds will be used on a number of local initiatives to help improve the environment and protect flora and fauna.


EPA director environmental regulation Chris Webb said in a statement the court-ordered funding would help benefit the local community.


“This is a significant and appropriate outcome given the impact of the incident on the Wangaratta community and local environment,” he said.


Nuplex makes water-based acrylic products for the textile, adhesive and paint industries, and the company was also ordered to pay the EPA's court costs of $13,464.

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