Saturday, August 01, 2009

Companies fined for releasing contaminants, odours into the air

Green Island's fellmongery and tannery, closed earlier this week, was yesterday in court admitting two charges of discharging odour to air earlier this year.

Colyer Mair Assets Ltd trades as Graeme Lowe Otago, which owns and operates the fellmongery and tannery at Main South Rd, Dunedin.

It appeared in front of Judge Gordon Whiting, of Auckland, in Dunedin yesterday, on charges brought by the Otago Regional Council.

The operation had a resource consent to discharge odours, but not any that were noxious, dangerous, offensive or objectionable beyond the boundary of the site.

Council counsel Alastair Logan said the first discharge occurred on January 15.

After complaints from residents in the area, a regional council officer detected odour which smelt like "a mixture of wet wool, burnt material and sulphur".

The second discharge was on January 23 and the council received six complaints about foul smell between 5pm and 7pm.

A council officer who investigated the odour described the smell on Main South Rd as a "sulphurous, ammoniacal, smoking, rotting meat smell" and it made her nauseous.

Colyer Mair counsel Jim Ferguson said the plant's closure was in no way related to yesterday's court appearance.

Staff's assumptions about what caused the first discharge were incorrect, which led to the second discharge.

"Immediate and extreme action was then taken."

Experts identified the sulphide scrubbers which filter the odours were the problem and the plant was shut down for one week, at a cost of $200,000, to do the work needed to replace them.

In both cases the odours did not last long or cause illness, he said.

The company had been fined $8000 for an odour discharge in 2007.

Judge Whiting said there was no deliberate attempt by the company to breach its consent and the company did "go into top gear" to address the problem.

Colyer Mair Ltd was convicted and fined on each charge $13,000, court costs $130, solicitors' fees $113.

On the first charge it was also ordered to pay regional council costs $198.30.

Ninety percent of the fee was directed to go to the regional council.

Silver Fern Farms Ltd admitted a charge of discharging contaminants, particulate matter and chemicals produced by the burning of plastic and refrigeration parts, to air from its Mosgiel site, in late September 2008.

Counsel Sally McMillan said the company regularly burnt wooden pallets and garden waste on site.

It was believed the plastic, found to be baleage wrap which the company did not use, and the refrigeration parts were put under the pallets by a third party and the employee who started the fire did not know the extra material was there.

"It was a flukey one-off situation that could have caught any company off guard," she said.

There were three other fires in the area at the time as well as discharges from domestic heating and other industry.

While the fire burnt for two hours, until the regional council arrived and asked for it to be extinguished, there was no long-lasting damage.

The company had since banned fires on its property.

Judge Whiting said the incident resulted in "rather toxic smelling and dark looking" smoke drifting slowly across Mosgiel to the coast.

The smoke had an adverse effect on visibility and amenity and while air pollution readings peaked between 8am and 11am at the same time as the fire, the fire was not necessarily the cause, he said.

SFF was convicted and fined $4000, court costs $130, solicitors' fees $113, and analyst fees $202.90.

The judge directed 90% of the fee to go to the regional council.

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