Orica plant leaks nitric acid, under investigation

Newcastle residents have raised concerns of plumes of nitrogen dioxide coming from a Kooragang Island nitric acid manufacturing plant owned by Orica.

Explosives manufacturer Orica confirmed that the plumes contained nitrogen dioxide, according to the Newcastle Herald.

Orica spokesperson Nicole Ekert stated that the fumes were emitted by the No.1 nitric acid plant at the Kooragang site.

Nitrogen dioxide, or as it is more commonly known as NOx, it a potentially dangerous chemical, and can turn into nitric acid in the lungs.

It is often a byproduct of blasting and explosives manufacturing.

However exposure is easily avoidable.

Stockton Community Action Group spokesperson Keith Craig told the Herald that Orica’s licence set standards for nitrogen oxides but not for nitrogen dioxide.

"Nitrogen dioxide has a more serious health impact than other NOx gases and it typically makes up about 20% of the total NOx readings," Craig stated

"In these sorts of cases, when you can see the brown plume, the NO2 levels are much higher.

‘"We believe NOx should be directly regulated, and we are also concerned that each of Orica’s three nitric acid plants have different licence limits, depending on their age and their efficiency."

Ekert said NOx levels are occasionally higher when the plant begins operations, and this is likely the cause behind the plumes,

Orica’s licence reportedly allows them to release NOx during plant start ups.

This incident follows on from a series of leaks at the site.


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