Chemical waste spill after failure at Gladstone alumina factory

An unknown amount of chemical waste has been released into a residential area of Gladstone after a mechanical failure at Queensland Alumina’s refinery.

A letter from the company sent to Gladstone residents said a gasket at the facility failed on Tuesday night causing waste material, which appears as a fine red spray, to disperse towards the suburb of Sun Valley.

Regulatory authorities were been notified of the incident and the company says no one injuries occurred, the ABC reported.

However small amounts of the waste material have been reported on windows and cars in the area.

The refining process creates a toxic by-product known as ‘red mud’, which is kept at nearby dams.

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) has blamed the accident on recent job cuts at the refinery.

As Manufacturers’ Monthly reported in October, Queensland Alumina Limited cut jobs at the Gladstone plant, blaming low global prices and the high Australian dollar.

"The aluminium structure in Australia is facing extremely difficult market conditions due to a high exchange rate, higher costs of production, low metal process and new taxes," chairman Armando Torres said at the time.

AWU spokesman Tony Beers said the company is not investing enough in maintenance.

"Contractors are calling us and they're slashing their workforce and reducing their services on the site as a result of budget cuts, doesn't make plants safer," he said.

Image: The Observer

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