$39,000 Fine For Cleaning Company Due to Toxic Discharge

3rd Mar 2017

The following article shows the direct consequences of unsafe chemical management, and contains a harsh lesson from which all chemical users should learn.

Recently there have been news that a New Zealand chemical cleaning company has been convicted and fined $39,000 for an eco-toxic discharge event in early February last year. The event occurred as a consequence of Chemwash Hamilton Ltd negligently discharging cleaning chemicals to the town's stormwater system to the local stream - which as result killed off a significant number of aquatic life in the Ohinemuri River in Paeroa, including eels and native banded kokopu. After discovering several distressed and dead eels and fish in a tributary flowing to the Ohinemuri River, concerned residents notified the Waikato Regional Council sparking an investigation.

The resulting council incident response team were then able to trace the contamination back from a retirement village that was at the time having its roof stripped for repainting. A subsequent investigation revealed that Chemwash Hamilton Ltd had completed the work without capturing the chemical run-off, or safely managing their process in an environmentally-responsible way.

"This is the first chemical incident Chemwash has experienced after many years of operation," said Chemwash Hamilton managing director, Roger Hall.
"Chemwash has been operating for many years and this is the first incident of its kind we have had, so obviously it is very upsetting."

The conviction and fine was imposed this week in the Auckland District Court by Judge David Fitzpatrick, who, although acknowledged Chemwash's previously unblemished record, stated that the company's activities were "at least reckless", and the measures it had taken to prevent an eco-toxic discharge were "completely inadequate".

Council investigations manager Patrick Lynch said that "a company that deals with acutely toxic chemicals should have had “exemplary measures in place to manage the risk to the environment".

"This was a completely avoidable incident. We are extremely disappointed with the actions of Chemwash and trust this fine will remind all users of toxic chemicals to ensure that they are managed properly."

Reading Chemwash Hamilton Ltd's case serves as a costly reminder for all of us of our duties and responsibilities to follow legislation and safely manage chemicals, and to prevent environmental harm.

Kemsol wishes to stress the importance of safe chemical management and preventative safety measures. Chemical safety is a responsibility and a duty by all chemical users to ensure that no harm is done to users or the environment.

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