Coun­cil seek­ing hefty fine for com­pany af­ter oil spill into Tau­ranga Har­bour

Bay of Plenty Times - - Local News - San­dra Conchie

A Bay com­pany is fac­ing a hefty fine af­ter al­most 150 litres of hy­draulic oil spilled into the Tau­ranga Har­bour.

Spe­cialised Con­tainer Ser­vices (Tau­ranga) Lim­ited was due to be sen­tenced in the En­vi­ron­ment Court at Tau­ranga on Mon­day af­ter it ear­lier ad­mit­ted a charge of dis­charg­ing a con­tam­i­nant on to land which ended up en­ter­ing a wa­ter­way.

The max­i­mum penalty charge is a $600,000 fine.

The Bay of Plenty Re­gional Coun­cil pros­e­cu­tion re­lates to the dis­charge of about 150 litres of hy­draulic oil from the de­fen­dant’s Sul­phur Point Wharf site, leased from the Port of Tau­ranga.

The oil was spilled from a con­tainer han­dler op­er­ated by the de­fen­dant com­pany on or about Septem­ber 21-22 last year into a nearby stormwa­ter catch­pit.

From there, the oil flowed into for the the Tau­ranga Har­bour, the heard.

The coun­cil’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the day of the dis­charge es­tab­lished that the hy­draulic lift hose on the con­tainer han­dler had blown off on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions.

Due to th­ese mal­func­tions and re­pairs be­ing un­der­taken, about 150 litres of Shell Spi­rax S3 TLV hy­draulic oil was dis­charged, the court heard.

A coun­cil of­fi­cer vis­ited the site af­ter pub­lic com­plaints and found a light oil sheen in the wa­ter un­der the western side of the Tau­ranga Har­bour Bridge.

The coun­cil’s lawyer, Adam Hop­kin­son, told Judge David Kirk­patrick that at no stage did any­one from the com­pany re­port the spills to the Port of Tau­ranga or the coun­cil.

Nor did any­one take steps to clean up any of the spilt hy­draulic oil un­til coun­cil of­fi­cers in­ter­vened, he said. court

Hop­kin­son said the coun­cil in­ves­ti­ga­tion also found that the de­fen­dant had no doc­u­mented pro­ce­dures for deal­ing with spills at its site.

The dis­charge had ad­versely af­fected the har­bour and the oil was ex­pected to per­sist in the har­bour for one to two years be­fore it biode­graded, the court heard.

It was an im­por­tant habi­tat for eight vul­ner­a­ble coastal birds such as the dot­terel and oys­ter­catcher, and also has sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural value to Tau­ranga Moana iwi, he said.

Hop­kin­son said the coun­cil was seek­ing a fine start­ing at $50,000 be­fore dis­counts for a guilty plea, re­morse and any mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors.

The com­pany’s lawyer, Janette Camp­bell, ar­gued the coun­cil’s start­ing point for the fine was too high, be­cause there was no de­lib­er­ate in­tent to not com­ply with its le­gal obli­ga­tions.

There was mod­er­ate rain­fall PHOTO / SUP­PLIED that day, and the amount was suf­fi­cient to cause stormwa­ter flows across the site that dis­persed some of the spilt oil be­fore it was con­tained, she said.

Camp­bell said this was a case where no one knew there had been a sig­nif­i­cant loss of hy­draulic oil from the con­tainer han­dler un­til the re­duced level was no­ticed by the com­pany’s me­chanic.

Staff were also un­aware they should have re­ported the spill to the Port of Tau­ranga to get them to shut off the in­ter­cep­tor, she said.

She ar­gued the com­pany’s cul­pa­bil­ity was lower than the coun­cil sug­gested and a fine start­ing at $40,000 was more ap­pro­pri­ate.

Camp­bell said Spe­cialised Con­tain­ers Ser­vices has un­der­taken sev­eral re­me­dial steps, in­clud­ing re­fresher train­ing for staff, and im­ple­mented daily and monthly checks.

Judge Kirk­patrick re­served his de­ci­sion.

A Bay of Plenty Coun­cil of­fi­cer ex­am­in­ing the catch­pit near the stormwa­ter out­let that con­tains the shut off valve.

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