EPA files Supreme Court action over Yarrowee River

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has filed an action with the Supreme Court, to force a Ballarat development company and a Director, to stop activity that is allegedly causing pollution of the Yarrowee River.

Developer, Vista Estate Pty Ltd, is building on an 18-hectare site at Hillview Rd, in the Brown Hill area of Ballarat. EPA alleges sediment is running off the site polluting the nearby Yarrowee.

"The Supreme Court action is EPA's next step in the legal process to stop the pollution we allege is being caused by the construction activity," said EPA CEO Lee Miezis.

"EPA is seeking final orders that includes an injunction using the new General Environmental Duties provisions in the Environment Protection Act 2017. The injunction sought would require Vista to conduct the manual extraction and disposal of sediment as detailed in Vista's Remediation Plan as soon as it is safe to do so, install multiple silt curtains of decreasing porosity downstream from the remediation work; and stop the remediation work if downstream turbidity exceeds a nominated value."

Mr Miezis said EPA is also seeking final orders imposing civil pecuniary penalties, declarations in relation to contraventions of the Act, adverse publicity orders, a restorative project order and general prevention orders.

"We have also filed for an interim injunction that would be in force whilst the substantive proceedings continue that would require Vista Estate Pty Ltd to cease all stormwater discharge from the premises and any other orders from the court, addressing the runoff issue."

Mr Miezis said EPA had been in frequent contact with Vista Estate Pty Ltd in the past, but had decided it had no alternative but to go through the court system where penalties for the alleged breaches of the Act can be as high as $3.8 million for a corporation.

"We hold all business activities to account, including construction sites, Since becoming aware of the issue in February 2022, EPA has done multiple inspections of the site and issued five remedial notices to the land manager. These have required the land manager to manage the risk, prevent the discharge by installing sediment controls, and develop a clean up plan for the river. Whilst some works have been done, EPA is not satisfied with the timeliness and extent of it overall, or the ongoing maintenance of controls," said Mr Miezis.

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