Chemical cleaning company fined $39,000 for toxic discharge at Paeroa

Banded kokopu following the toxic discharge in Paeroa last year. Photo / Supplied.
Banded kokopu following the toxic discharge in Paeroa last year. Photo / Supplied.

A chemical cleaning company has been convicted and fined $39,000 for a toxic discharge that resulted in a significant fish kill at Paeroa last year.

The case, against Chemwash Hamilton Limited, involved the discharge of toxic chemicals through the town's stormwater system to a local stream resulting in a large number of eels and native banded kokopu fish dying.

The prosecution, brought by Waikato Regional Council, concerned events that occurred in early February 2016.

Paeroa residents noticed a large number of distressed and dead eels and fish in a tributary that flows to the Ohinemuri River and notified the council, a spokesman said.

A culvert in Paeroa discharging toxic chemicals into a small waterway. Photo / Supplied.
A culvert in Paeroa discharging toxic chemicals into a small waterway. Photo / Supplied.

"The council incident response team was able to trace the contaminated stream and storm water system back to a retirement village that was having its roof stripped for repainting."

An investigation found Chemwash Hamilton completed the work at the retirement village without capturing the chemicals being used or managing them in an environmentally safe manner.

The conviction and fine was imposed this week in the Auckland District Court by Judge David Fitzpatrick who stated that the company's activities were "at least reckless", and the steps they had taken to protect against a discharge into the environment were "completely inadequate".

Dead eels following the toxic discharge by Chemwash Hamilton. Photo / Supplied.
Dead eels following the toxic discharge by Chemwash Hamilton. Photo / Supplied.

The council's investigations manager Patrick Lynch said "a company that deals with acutely toxic chemicals should have had exemplary measures in place to manage the risk to the environment".

"We would like to acknowledge the quick work by Paeroa locals who attempted to save some of the dying fish and contacted the council promptly.

"This was a completely avoidable incident. We are extremely disappointed with the actions of Chemwash and trust this fine will remind all users of chemicals to ensure that they are managed properly."

- NZ Herald

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