11 August 2011
Orica identifies chemical release in the Hunter
NSW Health Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said today that NSW Health officials are aware of an incident at an Orica site on Kooragang Island, Newcastle that resulted in the release of a chemical substance onto houses located in the vicinity of the plant near Stockton.
The incident occurred around 6 pm on Monday evening and involved a short emission of Hexavalent Chromium from the plant during start up. The emission appears to have been largely contained within the Orica site on Kooragang Island, however some nearby houses in the area of Stockton bounded by Fullerton Street, Griffith Avenue, Barrie Crescent and Flint Street were affected.
Dr Chant said NSW Government agencies are working with Orica to ascertain the full extent of the exposure of Hexavalent Chromium to employees and residents within the vicinity. However, the initial advice from Orica’s toxicologists was that the risk to human health is minor.
“NSW Health and Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) take these issues very seriously and has today convened an expert panel of scientists and public health specialists to independently verify the advice provided so far by Orica,” said Dr Chant.
“The information available at this time shows no reports of acute health effects. Orica reports that none of their staff at the site have reported acute health effects following exposure to the substance.
“The Hunter New England Local Health District has seen no related presentations to local Emergency Departments.
“However, health officials are monitoring the situation closely and are working with the Office of Environment and Heritage and with staff from Orica,” said Dr Chant.
Dr Chant said that people residing in the affected area that has been potentially exposed to the chemical should follow these precautions:
Health officials are in the process of contacting all potentially exposed households.