Unilever Australia fined $15,000 for soda ash leak

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Unilever Australia $15,000 after soda ash leaked from a silo at the company’s North Rocks premises.

The leak, which was first discovered during an EPA inspection on 15 April 2016, was caused by a faulty valve on the silo.  EPA Acting Director Metro Greg Sheehy said EPA officers observed the soda ash leaking onto the ground, entering two onsite stormwater drains (which lead to an onsite holding pond) and becoming airborne.

“The EPA’s assessment is that the risk of offsite impacts in the community is very low because soda ash did not leave the premises,” said Sheehy.

“However the EPA is concerned about Unilever’s failure to follow strict conditions around maintaining equipment.

“Soda ash can pose a risk if it does enter the environment so it’s vital that companies adhere to their licence requirements.”

In addition to issuing Unilever with a $15,000 fine, the EPA also issued the company with an official clean up notice.

“A follow up inspection by EPA officers on 21 April 2016 revealed that more soda ash had leaked onto the ground – this is despite Unilever advising us the area was clean,” said Sheehy.

The soda ash has since been cleaned up and Unilever has taken steps to prevent further soda ash leaks by having spare parts on hand for future repairs, according to the company.