EPA and court make polluter pay for platypus project

Western Region Water Corporation will pay $110,000 to a platypus conservation project run by a local volunteer group, after an Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) prosecution for a sewage spill at Eynesbury in 2018.

EPA Western Metropolitan Regional Manager, Stephen Lansdell, says the money will go to the Werribee River Association for its Progressing Platypus project.

“One of the great things about the Environment Protection Act 1970 is that it gives the court the power to order offenders to fund projects for the restoration and enhancement of the environment,” Mr Lansdell said.

“In this case, it’s a community group’s project that will survey the platypus population and water quality in the Werribee River, plant new native habitat and educate the community on threats to the platypus and what people can do to help this precious native species,” he said.

The EPA investigation began following a one metre split in a sewerage pipe that leaked for several days in April 2018, sending sewage flowing across open land to a nearby drain that leads to the Werribee River.

“The leak involved an estimated two megalitres of sewage, but two factors helped to limit the environmental damage. An unused dam trapped some of the leak, and a release of 140 megalitres of irrigation water from upstream the same day helped to dilute any sewage that reached the river,” Mr Lansdell said.

The sewage had come from the small township of Eynesbury and had been on its way to the Melton South sewage treatment plant when the leak occurred.

The Sunshine Magistrates’ Court sentenced the Western Region Water Corporation without conviction after it entered a plea of guilty to one charge of causing/permitting an environmental hazard.

The Corporation was ordered to fund the local volunteer group’s project and pay EPA’s legal costs incurred in conducting the prosecution.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The owner of the farmland reported the sewage spill to Western Water on 27 April 2018.

The spill appeared to have been under way for several days. Western Water reported that its automatic leak detection system had been shut down temporarily while the system underwent an upgrade.

EPA investigators took samples from the leak site and noted that Western Water was using eductor trucks to pump out the spilled sewage for proper disposal.

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