Stock photo of Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL), Gladstone.
Stock photo of Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL), Gladstone.

Refinery facing multiple charges for environmental incident

A HIGH-PROFILE industrial company in Gladstone has requested more time to consider its legal position on several charges relating to an environmental incident that occurred in 2018.

Queensland Alumina Limited requested an adjournment in Gladstone Magistrates Court on Wednesday facing charges of contravene condition of environmental authority, unlawfully cause serious environmental harm and wilfully contravene condition of an environmental authority.

In a statement to The Observer a QAL spokeswoman said the charges related to a "process incident" that occurred on September 8, 2018.

"An overpressure safety system was activated during unplanned maintenance," she said.

"There was no reported environmental or human health impacts from the event."

The spokeswoman said QAL "deeply regretted" the incident and works had been conducted as part of QAL's 5-Year environmental strategy to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

"QAL is now 12 months into our 5-year environmental strategy to improve our environmental performance," she said.

"This strategy includes capital upgrades and a focus on workplace culture to ensure safety and environment is placed at the heart of everything we do.

"We have already completed four projects and spent $23 million. We expect the overall spend to exceed $300 million."

It comes after QAL pleaded guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court in June to four non-wilful contraventions of its Environmental Authority.

On September 24, 2017, two of the three newly installed valves in the discharge pipe system were left open and about 65 cubic metres of 50 per cent sodium hydroxide poured into the harbour.

On December 5, 2017, 50 per cent sodium hydroxide spilled to land and groundwater outside the containment system, after a storage tank at South Trees ruptured.

Neither releases caused environmental harm, but the company was in breach of the authority.

On July 5, 2019, QAL was convicted and fined $130,000 for the two incidents.

The current court matters were adjourned to February 5, 2020.