Newcastle Local Court has fined Newcastle City Council for causing water pollution on three separate occasions between March and June 2018 at Summerhill Waste Management Facility. This followed prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
Council was fined $55,000 and the Court ordered that Council publish details of the offences in the Newcastle Herald and on Council’s social media platforms. Council is also required to pay the EPA’s legal and investigation costs of approximately $50,000.
The first two offences involved contaminated water discharging from a sediment pond on the waste management site and into Wentworth Creek. This was caused by a faulty valve.
The third offence involved the discharge of sediment laden and amonia impacted water over the top of a pond wall, also causing pollution of Wentworth Creek.
Magistrate Barnett found that the offences were foreseeable and that there were practical measures Council could have taken to avoid them. It was also noted that Council had demonstrated contrition in its actions and had funded improvement operations at the site.
EPA Chief Environmental Regulator David Fowler said the decision provided an important reminder to holders of Environment Protection Licences to be aware of foreseeable risks.
“The EPA hopes the fines will serve as a deterrent and encourages licence holders to take steps to avoid polluting our state’s waterways.”
The EPA investigates all reports of potential pollution and encourages anyone with a concern, or knowledge of pollution in their local area, to contact the 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555.
Prosecutions are one of a number of tools the EPA uses to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions.