George Weston found guilty of Castlemaine pollution

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 22nd April 2010

George Weston Foods Ltd plead guilty on Friday on two counts of improper waste disposal at its Don KRC meat processing plant in Castlemaine last year, and was ordered to pay $60,000 in damages, plus court costs.

The Castlemaine Magistrate’s Court was told that in February 2009, EPA Victoria received complaints about odour along Barkers Creek, and that investigations discovered a ‘fatty substance’ in the dry creek bed, which was traced back to the plant. The problem was caused by an incorrect connection of the plant’s waste water to the stormwater system rather than the sewer line.

In a separate incident, liquid waste escaped the plant three weeks later into a table drain via the stormwater system.

The issues leading to the two pollution incidents have now been fixed.

George Weston Foods will pay the $60,000 fine to the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group, who told the ABC they would use the money for a new program designed to help people reduce their carbon footprint.

Mel Sutton, Divisional Chief Executive of George Weston Foods, apologised for the incidents and said the business was ‘focused on appropriate processes’ to ensure they would not happen again.

“We have sought to cooperate fully with the EPA and local authorities throughout this process to rectify any repercussions caused by the incident. This included proactively engaging members of our local business unit in the immediate clean-up operation in order to minimise any potential impact on the environment.”

George Weston’s parent group, Associated British Foods, reported that while the bakery business had been profitable this year, the Don KRC business had taken a hit.

“In the Don KRC meat business, falling commodity costs led to lower prices and consequently lower sales revenues while operating margin was affected by strong competition,” read their 2010 interim results report.