Keith CraigRESIDENTS and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) are at odds over a napthalene spill from the Koppers Australia Mayfield plant yesterday.

EPA spokeswoman Liza Cassidy said the incident was ‘‘very minor’’, and Koppers had been given seven days to provide the authority with a ‘‘full incident report’’.

But Stockton activist Keith Craig and his Mayfield colleague John Hayes said the incident was anything but minor.

It was also a test of new post-Orica reporting regulations that mean companies with EPA licences are supposed to tell authorities ‘‘immediately’’ after an incident.

Ms Cassidy said the EPA had sent people to Koppers at Woodstock Street, Mayfield, about 7.30am yesterday but that members of the public, and not Koppers, had alerted the authority.

She said Koppers had told the EPA the leak of napthalene had happened after a pipe was blocked during a cleaning procedure at about 7am yesterday.

But Mr Craig, who rang Koppers after smelling the napthalene fumes from his Stockton property yesterday morning, said a Koppers manager had told him on the phone that the incident had happened at about 5am.

‘‘It would take a while for the fumes to get from Mayfield to Stockton and if it’s so strong where we are that you could hardly go outside, I don’t know how they consider it to be minor,’’ Mr Craig said.

He said napthalene was a carcinogen and the emission was another sign of Hunter industry having trouble operating to acceptable standards.

Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne said that if Koppers had not told the EPA, it was worth asking whether the authority had written to the companies it regulates, telling them of the changes it had made in reporting procedures.

The Koppers plant makes pitch and other carbon-based products using raw materials brought to Newcastle by ship from Whyalla and Port Kembla steelworks.

It had been fed from BHP Newcastle until the steel-making plant shut in 1999.