Company likely to pay minor fine
ONE of Australia's leading construction companies, John Holland Pty Ltd, is likely to escape with a minor fine after pleading guilty to environmental breaches near Mackay and Bowen.
Barrister Ralph Devlin, appearing for the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), said a maximum fine of more than $5million was an option but suggested a more suitable penalty was between $180,000 and $220,000.
Bowen Magistrate Athol Kennedy will hand down his verdict within a month.
DERM proceeded with just seven charges - all relating to breaches of the company's environmental permits at jobs at Dalrymple Bay and Bowen's Abbot Point coal-loading extensions - from 76 originally laid.
All 38 charges against the parent company, John Holland Group Pty Ltd were dropped and the same 38 alleged against the company's steel fabrication wing, John Holland Pty Ltd, were whittled down to seven.
Mr Devlin said the company continually failed to capture abrasive sand blasted from metal and plastic structures at both projects.
Toxic elements were mixed with the discharge, with the worst being heavy metals zinc and barium.
Mr Devlin said there were repeated breaches of 'encapsulation' of the job sites from September, 2008, until June, 2009.
He said the company's environmental monitors regularly warned of breaches but the problem was not overcome until DERM inspections were carried out.
Defence barrister Tony Glynn called John Holland's then regional environmental manager, Anne Anderson, who told the court the company had regular briefings with senior management and tool box meetings with contractors to ensure all laws were adhered to.
She said the company reached a degree of frustration in April, 2009, and sent an email stream to all workers to comply with environmental provisions.
Another defence witness, environmental scientist, David Petch, that the heavy metals would be more likely to cause turbidity in the water and be only a minor problem. Levels were far below accepted cause for concern, he said.