EPA issues fine over chemical leak

The EPA has fined Viva Energy over a leak that resulted in three times the limit of BTEX being released into Corio Bay in April. (Supplied) 253330_01

Ash Bolt

EPA Victoria has fined Viva Energy more than $8000 for releasing harmful chemicals in the Corio Bay above its licence limits.

The EPA said this week it had issued Viva Energy with an $8261 fine after it found the refinery operator had breached its licence when a heat exchanger leak in April resulted in the discharge of BTEX, containing benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, three times its limit into cooling water and Corio Bay.

EPA south west regional manager Carolyn Francis said BTEX was harmful to fish and aquatic life, but there had been no fish deaths observed from the spill.

“This should have been prevented,” she said.

“Viva has now fixed the faulty equipment, improved its maintenance procedures and will be more vigilant in future, but, under the Environment Protection Act 1970, any licence holder who contravenes any condition to which the licence is subject is guilty of an offence and the fine is therefore warranted.

“BTEX is toxic to marine life at elevated levels. There were no fish deaths or other impacts observed in this instance, but it is critical that licence conditions are adhered with to prevent impacts.”

A Viva Energy spokesperson said the company would not contest the fine.

“Viva Energy is aware of the infringement notice issued by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria regarding the release of waste water with elevated levels of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene which occurred on 6 and 8 April 2021,” the spokesperson said.

“The company does not intend to contest the matter.

“Viva Energy notified the EPA of the incident as soon as we became aware of it. We have thoroughly investigated the cause of the incident and put in place a number of mitigation measures to ensure it does not happen again.

“This includes increasing the frequency of preventative maintenance on the equipment that caused the leak.

“Viva Energy takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and regrets the incident

“We will use the learnings to further improve our operations and prevent any similar incidents from occurring in future.

“We will be making a financial contribution to Greening Australia to the same value as the EPA fine.”

The EPA has encouraged the community to report breaches of environmental regulations by phone at 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842) or email at contact@epa.vic.gov.au.