Page 8213 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Wednesday, 30 October 2019
NYRSTAR CHEMICAL LEAKS
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Can the minister please advise me or the house when he was aware of the acid spill at Nyrstar in Port Pirie in January this year, and when will the civic leader and also the local member be advised of that?
The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS (Black—Minister for Environment and Water) (14:48): I thank the member for Frome for his question and his compassion and advocacy for his community. As I tabled in a ministerial statement earlier today, I became aware yesterday of a couple of incidents that had occurred at Nyrstar, one in 2017 and one in 2019, which had been the subject of recent media inquiries and coverage. Those were first brought to my office’s attention in February this year.
Those two issues were not deemed to have posed an immediate or ongoing public health risk due to the fact that they had occurred in a moment in time and weren’t being perpetuated on an ongoing basis. However, that triggered a protocol where investigations had been ongoing by the EPA around both incidents. The one in particular that occurred on 31 January 2019 continues to be investigated and those investigations are proceeding well, I am advised.
I think it is fair to say, though, that the member for Frome and his community have every right to ask questions as to why the thresholds are such around these protocols that public notification isn’t given. Although they didn’t pose an immediate public health risk, there was still a risk to the environment and environmental damage as a consequence of these incidents.
As a result, I have spoken today to the acting chair of the EPA Board, Dr Steve Christley, asking him to continue discussions with me and the board as to how those protocols and thresholds can be reviewed to ensure that the public, including the local member, civic leaders and myself, are made aware of these circumstances as and when they arise, and not just incidents that have that immediate public health risk but also those that might have resulted in particular environmental damage that would reach a threshold of public concern.
I will arrange, as soon as I can, a briefing with the member for Frome and civic leaders to go through the potential review and the incidents in detail.