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Diesel spill into Heathcote River earns conviction

September 27, 2006


Diesel spill into Heathcote River earns conviction for Steelbro NZ Ltd

Steelbro NZ Ltd has been convicted in the Christchurch District Court of offences relating to the discharge of diesel on the night of February 4/5, 2005.

Judge J A Smith found that the discharge of the diesel from the Steelbro site caused the contamination that occurred in the Heathcote River a week later, February 11 and 12, 2005.

Hundreds of ducks were coated with diesel in the spill into the river.Environment Canterbury’s Pollution Hotline team, City Council parks staff, marine oil spill experts, a team from Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE), many local citizens and veterinarians were involved in the clean up and duck rescue. Pollution Hotline staff had to prevent the diesel going all the way to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary/Ihutai, with its more vulnerable populations of migratory birds and aquatic ecosystems.

The reason for the delay in the diesel making its way into the main river from the stormwater drain and stream system was because it had been trapped in a culvert for a week and was released after heavy rainfall on February 11.

Because Steelbro had failed to lock or isolate their diesel pump while the site was unattended on the Friday night, they were convicted of the charges. The judge observed that on the day of the original spill into the stormwater drain, February 5, Steelbro co-operated fully with Environment Canterbury’s Pollution Hotline team in the initial clean up of the small amount of diesel that was visible close to the work site.

“This decision highlights the precautions that should be taken by companies who store diesel and other hazardous and dangerous chemicals on their work sites,” said Cr Alec Neill, chair of ECan’s regulation hearing committee.

Sentencing is set down for October 4. The company has 15 working days to appeal the decision.


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