A failure to properly manage and maintain a vital piece of equipment led to VIVA Energy Refining Pty Ltd releasing levels of chemicals in the Corio Bay well above its licence limits.
The VIVA heat exchanger leak in April this year resulted in the discharge of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) three times above the licenced limit into cooling water and into Corio Bay from the VIVA W5 Area North Outfall.
BTEX is harmful to fish and aquatic life, but no fish deaths have been observed from the spill.
EPA was notified of the breach and has issued VIVA with an $8,261 fine.
“This should have been prevented. 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,” said EPA South West Regional Manager Carolyn Francis.
 “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”.
From 1 July 2021, EPA has been operating under the new Environment Protection Act 2017. Central to the new laws is an Australian first, the establishment of a general environmental duty (GED) that is criminally enforceable. This requires people conducting activities that pose risks to human health and the environment from pollution and waste to understand those risks and take reasonable steps to eliminate or minimise them.
The new laws allow for significantly greater penalties for non-compliance.
Members of the public can help EPA to reduce risk by reporting waste and resource recovery sites that don’t comply with the regulations.  If you see tightly packed, large or rapidly growing stockpiles at a recycling site near you, call EPA’s 24-hour pollution hotline, on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842) or email at contact@epa.vic.gov.au 

Reviewed 18 October 2021