Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined a company more than $7,500 for illegally discharging a hazardous gas into the air at its Holt Parade premises in Thomastown.

The incident occurred on 10 September at electroplating company Electromold Australia, a division of George Lovitt (Manufacturing) Pty Ltd, and caused surrounding factories to be evacuated.

EPA Metro Manager Daniel Hunt said the company had loaded waste into containers for disposal and residual contamination had caused a chemical reaction.

“The reaction caused a vapour to discharge up to five meters into the air, and resulted in surrounding factories being evacuated while four staff members were ordered to remain inside the factory until the air could be neutralised,” Mr Hunt said.

“MFB eventually controlled the substance, which took an entire day, using soda ash and pH testing before the site could be declared safe.” 

Mr Hunt said nitric acid and ammonium bifluoride had reacted with polyols, ethylene glycol and tertiary amines that remained in a container not cleaned properly before it was reused.

“Companies have a responsibility to their workers and the community to be very diligent in handling waste materials such as these. This incident could have been worse and should serve as a reminder to others about the importance of using appropriately cleaned containers to store waste,” Mr Hunt said.

“The reaction caused the vapour to escape into the air, but thankfully it was largely contained on the site, which is in a large industrial area away from residential areas.”

Mr Hunt said the company did not have any emergency management procedures in place at the time to prevent an incident of this nature occurring.

“The company now has put in place acceptable practices to guarantee its containers are ready for reuse before being filled with waste to be transported offsite to a facility licensed to receive and treat it,” Mr Hunt said.

Mr Hunt said EPA officers had also issued the company with a notice that requires it to empty all of its waste pits to ensure there are no cracks within concrete bases.

“If any cracks or potential cracks are identified, EPA will require that these are fixed before they can be used again to store waste generated from electroplating activities at the site,” Mr Hunt said.

EPA urges members of the public to report suspected pollution to EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or at www.epa.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 23 August 2019