New laws will require polluters in New South Wales to immediately notify state agencies of incidents, as the State Government responds to a chemical leak in Newcastle two months ago.Premier Barry O'Farrell announced an inquiry after the toxic chemical chromium V1 escaped from Orica's Kooragang Island ammonium nitrate plant on August 8.
The leak fuelled community anger, particularly over the time it took for Orica to notify agencies of the incident and for the Government to pass on the information to residents in the neighbouring suburb of Stockton.
Today the Premier released the report by former department head Brendan O'Reilly and said the Government would adopt all its recommendations.
"This report makes clear that as a result of particularly the communication problems, the delays in communicating the incident to the appropriate authorities, delays between authorities, delays with the Government, delays with the public, the people of Stockton went through enormous stress," Mr O'Farrell said.
In the report Mr O'Reilly says it is likely between 10 and 20 kilograms of the chemical escaped beyond the Orica site.
The report criticises Orica over the initial delay of more than 16 hours before it notified anyone of the leak.
"The delay by Orica in notifying the incident had a direct impact on whether the incident was treated as an emergency," Mr O'Reilly said.
"To the residents of Stockton and neighbouring communities the lack of communication represented a period of six days of uncertainty.
"They have every right to express their anger, concern and frustration that at the end of the day, despite the legislation, the Government and company plans, policies and procedures, they were let down."
In response the Government will introduce legislation next week to toughen the state's pollution laws.
Under the changes pollution incidents must be reported within an hour, and the fine for failing to do so will be doubled to $2 million.
The Government is also planning to re-establish the Environmental Protection Authority as an independent regulator and create an industry-funded network of environmental monitors.
The legislation will also broaden the agencies who must be notified.