Botany Bay oil spill investigation slammed

THE President of the South Sydney Amateur Fishing Association, Stan Konstantaras, says he’s appalled at the outcome of an investigation into a Caltex Kurnell generated oil spill in Botany Bay that occurred in March last year.

After 12 months of investigation, Caltex has entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Environmental Protection Authority to provide $120,000 for a number of local projects as a penalty for the Botany Bay incident.

Mr Konstantaras considers this negotiated outcome is totally inadequate and sends a clear message to serial polluters such as Caltex that accidental pollution events are just part and parcel of doing business and the cost of being caught a minimal operating expense.

Konstantaras says recreational fishers pushed Government, the EPA, Ports NSW and “just about everyone else” to review the information Caltex and Ports NSW had issued, which highlighted how inadequate the EPA approved self-reporting system is.

“Whilst every government agency was ducking for cover or putting out misleading information, recreational fishers were pursuing the truth and applying pressure to have the EPA conduct ongoing and further investigations into the incident which we suspected also caused a Sydney Harbour oil contamination the following day,” he told Fisho.

A day after the event it was reported: “A Caltex spokeswoman said Sydney Ports and other agencies, including the EPA were notified of the spill on Monday afternoon.”

“Caltex contained and dispersed this small oil release in conjunction with Sydney Ports Corporation,” the company said in a statement. It went on to say “This morning, Caltex, along with Sydney Ports Corporation, have inspected both the north and south side of Botany Bay by boat, and also by foot along the beach front. No odour or sheen was detected and all appears to now be clear.”

Two days later oil was still being found on the beaches by recreational fishers, raising concern that the EPA did not take up the offer to review video footage and photos and soil samples collected by recreational fishers who’d witnessed the extent of the oil spill contamination.

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“That the EPA clearly does not have resources, the power or the political will to do the right thing by the environment or the community when events like this occur and questions just how effective the EPA self-reporting system really is,” Konstantaras says.

“Don’t rely on the EPA alone when dealing with serial polluters like Caltex,” he adds.

“Take it up with your local members of Parliament or the Minister’s Office directly if you have any incidents to report, don’t hand over the information blindly without a Plan B and risk getting disappointed, don’t sit back and wait for others that might not have recreational anglers interests front and centre.”

In response, a spokesperson for the EPA told Fisho today “The EPA understands the anger that rec fishers may have in relation to the incident that occurred in March last year, but we believe that the Enforceable Undertaking imposed on Caltex is an appropriate response to ensure the environment is protected.

“The EU identifies the cause of the incident and the details the actions Caltex has put in place to prevent it happening again.

“The $120,000 contribution towards environmental projects that forms part of this undertaking will provide real and tangible outcomes for the local environment and local communities.

“The EPA continues to maintain a strong regulatory approach with Caltex. The factors the EPA takes into account in determining its regulatory response are detailed in the EPA Compliance Policy,” the spokesperson concluded.

The beneficiaries of the $120,000 Caltex enforceable undertaking with the EPA include:

$5,000 to National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) for the Discovery program – Marine Environment Teachwild Activity at La Perouse in which school students are given guided tours by Discovery Rangers and scientists from CSIRO; $35,000 to NPWS Catchment and Beach/Dune Rehabilitation and Habitat Restoration Project – Congwong Precinct which includes works to prevent erosion and restore habitat in the Congwong Precinct; $50,000 to Sutherland Shire Council for the Marton Park Wetland Rehabilitation Project which includes works to rehabilitate the Wetland; and $30,000 to Randwick Council for the Discover your Coast Program (Marine and Coastal Adventure Program) which includes a range of free and affordable activities aimed at helping families and children of all ages discover our unique marine and coastal environment.

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