PREMIER Barry O’Farrell says he has lost all confidence in Orica after another chemical leak that hospitalised two people.
But it is his Environment Minister Robyn Parker who is under pressure over why she did not issue a public statement about the incident sooner.
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The Environmental Protection Authority yesterday ordered the official closure of the entire Orica site at Kooragang Island following the leak of ammonia on Wednesday.
The ammonium nitrate plant at the site remains closed following the August 8 hexavalent chromium leak over Stockton.
Despite the government coming under fire for the delay in telling residents of the hexavalent chromium incident, Environment Minister Robyn Parker did not comment on the latest incident until a press conference at 1pm in Sydney yesterday.
Ms Parker admitted she had not spoken to the company about the leak of ammonia, saying it was a matter for the EPA, emergency services and WorkCover.
She said ‘‘there is something systematically wrong at Orica and I am calling on the top person at Orica whoever that might be to step up and explain to the community’’ what was going on.
Asked if she knew who the head of Orica was, Ms Parker was prompted by EPA head Greg Sullivan that it was Graeme Liebelt.
Ms Parker called on Orica to explain itself, but said it was not up to her to get involved.
‘‘I am the minister responsible for the regulator, this was an emergency incident and those authorities took the steps that they needed to take,’’ Ms Parker said.
She said she had not issued a statement because Fire and Rescue NSW had made one on Wednesday night.
Mr Sullivan said it was his responsibility to deal with the leak and not Ms Parker’s.
He said he had rung Mr Liebelt on Wednesday evening, and again yesterday when he advised he would order that the plant be closed.
‘‘I am concerned that what occurred at Orica yesterday is a serious incident,’’ Mr Sullivan said.
‘‘A safety valve that released is essentially the last line of defence and other systems ought to have been in place to make sure that it didn’t get to that stage.’’
Mr O’Farrell told State Parliament later that Orica had ‘‘lost completely my confidence’’ and that the head of Department of Premier and Cabinet had also spoken with the company.
Labor leader John Robertson said the government had failed again to keep residents informed despite its promises.
‘‘You’ve really got to ask what is Robyn Parker being paid to do if it’s not to tell people, and advise them when incidents like this occur,’’ Mr Robertson said.
Only a few hours after the latest leak on Wednesday, the upper house of Parliament passed legislation strengthening reporting requirements for pollution incidents and making the EPA independent.