THE EPA will visit mining company Esso's Longford plant today to investigate reports of high levels of oil odour.It follows complaints from a plant neighbour and local mining activist groups who claim the company failed to inform locals about potential risks to them.
Esso spokesman Chris Welberry confirmed they had an incident at the Gippsland plant in November when a 'higher amount than normal' of crude oil went into their settling ponds at the plant.
Mr Welberry admitted this caused an 'unpleasant odour' from high amounts of crude oil vapour and ESSO staff were removed from areas close to settlement ponds for a short period.
"Over time (the vapour) dissipated, it was unpleasant but . . . our workers and neighbours health has not been at risk," he said.
Longford plant neighbour Ray Shilling lodged an initial complaint on 19 November and claimed an Esso doctor he dealt with about his health complaints told him he had high levels of benzene in his system.
Benzene is a natural part of crude oil but studies have also linked long term exposure to cancer.
Mr Welberry said some levels of Benzene, as a natural component of crude oil, were produced at the plant but the company had procedures in place so it was handled appropriately.
Mr Shilling said he was offered hotel accommodation in Sale by the mining company on 30 November while a clean up operation was underway.
He claims he suffered excessive headaches and a dry cough since the incident and despite making over five complaints to Esso and the EPA nothing had been said to the local community.
"If something happened at the plant, as neighbours we should be informed," Mr Shilling said
"The health of the community is important and Esso have a responsibility to us, we have a lot of young people in the area and their safety is paramount."
Community over mining spokesperson Tracy Anton called for transparency from Esso and the EPA about the incident and for them to reveal any risk to the community.
"If Esso have reported this, why haven't locals been contacted about this," Ms Anton said.
An EPA spokeswoman confirmed Esso has reported a hydrocarbon odour from a waste collection pond on 4 December and said the company had conducted their own investigation following a community complaint.
The EPA will visit the Longford site today to investigate the matter.