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Published: 2001-10-26 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has prosecuted two oil industry companies for a petrol leak into the foreshore at Whitianga Harbour discovered last July.

Mobil Oil NZ Ltd and Hamilton Oil Services Ltd have been fined a total of $16,000 plus court costs. They were charged in the District Court at Auckland with two charges of depositing petrol in the harbour over a five-month period from late January, 2000. On July 4 last year a sheen was noticed by Environment Waikato Officer Bob Muller on the coastal water next to the underground fuel storage facility owned by Mobil at the Whitianga Wharf.

The leak took three days to clean up and in sentencing the two companies Environment Court judge Bollard described the work involved as “quite significant” compared with the small size of the hole. The quantity of fuel which had been discharged was “not insignificant.” The best estimate was that about 1800 litres had escaped.

The leak came from a corrosion point in a two-metre section of steel pipe, which was subject to a contract between the two companies. The Hamilton company was required to replace the piping leading to the storage tank with fibreglass material but for some unexplained reason a section was not replaced.

Mobil had also failed to detect the leak over a five-month period. Judge Bollard said the leak went on far too long without detection and should have been picked up earlier. He said Mobil, which also met the costs of the clean up, took remedial steps. Environmental effects were minimised and no long-term effects had been identified.

“It is important for defendants to ensure they have reliable systems in place, given the expectation that the public have for ensuring that fuel facilities will be safe in terms of the adjacent environment.”

Mobil had resolved to upgrade its checking system by introducing computerised systems.

Each defendant was convicted and fined $8,000 and ordered to pay half of Environment Waikato’s disbursements plus court costs.

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