Coode Island Committee Update

Bentley Chemplax paraffin oil spill

Over the night of 11/12 September, a spill of some 20,000 and 40,000 litres of refined paraffin oil found its way into the Maribyrnong River from the Bentley Chemplax site on Coode Island. Joe Buffone from Marine Safety Victoria told the Committee about the quick action taken when the spill was discovered at 7:30 am on Thursday morning. By 9:15 am, floating barriers had been installed to prevent the spread of the paraffin oil, and skimmers were deployed to commence its recovery. While the oil presents no significant human health risks, its impacts on marine life are still being investigated.

Committee Members heard about the prompt measures taken to contain the area under threat, and to clean up the paraffin. However some significant issues arise, on which further advice is sought. A spill of 20-40 tonnes is huge, and apparently occurred over a number of hours. What management and control measures are required by EPA to prevent such massive spills?

While Terminals Manager, George Horman, explained that Terminals’ secondary containment system (bunds) would prevent such a spill at their plant escaping the site because of their practice of locking bund drain pipe outlets closed – opening them to release storm water only after testing under strict, recorded supervision. The Committee asked: “Should not there be automatic alarms that respond to unplanned loss of product in all tanks?”

The issue of communication was also of concern to the Committee, with the City of Maribyrnong not being notified until 11:00 am. The Committee recognises that agencies must be careful about what they say until an inquiry is completed, and any enforcement action is taken. This should not prevent action being taken quickly to tighten controls and communications in this vital area of public and environmental safety.

Terminals Pty Ltd sale process

The sale of Terminals Pty Ltd as a going concern to Kaneb Pipe Line Operating Partnership is expected to be finalised in a matter of days.

Lease extension east of Mackenzie Road

George Horman told the Committee that Terminals have signed an agreement with Government to extend the lease on the east side of Mackenzie Road until 31 January 2005, a six month extension. The Government anticipates that Marstel will be operating by 21 January 2004, allowing Terminals to close the east side plant, decommission and clean up the site before the end of the extended lease period.

Terminals’ Environment Improvement Plan (EIP)

Further to the discussion of tank integrity at the August meeting, a second item for improvement at Coode Island is the stripping of as much product as possible from tanks before they are cleaned. George Horman told the Committee that at present, when a tank is emptied, the last 1,000 litres of product has to be removed manually with attendant cost and waste consequences. For over twenty years Terminals, at its newer plant, has used an arrangement of subsidiary drainage pipes in the sumps at the bottom of tanks to recover nearly all the product. In new chemical ships, recovery rates down to 12 litres in each compartment are claimed to be possible. At Coode Island, Terminals will progressively upgrade the tanks to improve the present 1,000 litres left to something better than 75 litres. “Considering the configuration, size and bottom slope of the existing tanks, this limit represents a practical balance of environmental care and capital cost” George told the Committee.

A further environmental benefit is that the same system can be used to recycle tank washing water, greatly reducing the amount of waste water needed to be sent for treatment and disposal.


Two community members of the CICCC (Michael Isaachsen and Deborah Macfarane) attended the Terminals Stage 2 HAZOP workshop on 4 September at Coode Island. The HAZOP process involves a very detailed consideration of all aspects of the plant operation, looking for possible failure mechanisms, and ways to prevent and manage them. Deborah reported that she had found it informative.

Next meeting of the CICCC

Agenda items for the October meeting of the CICCC include the further discussion on the Environment Improvement Plan and the Safety Case, and further advice on the soil testing at Coode Island. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting on Thursday 10th October 2002 at the Maribyrnong Town Hall on the corner of Hyde and Napier Streets, Footscray at 6.30 pm.

Robin Saunders, 

Chair CICCC, 

16 September 2002