Laing O’Rourke fined $15,000 over Sydney Metro rail project pollution


The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction Pty Ltd $15,000 after liquid from a water treatment plant at the new Sydney Metro rail project was discharged into Blackwattle Bay on Sydney Harbour.

The company holds an Environment Protection Licence for construction of the Sydney Metro Project at Central Station.

A sub-contractor operates a water treatment plant on behalf of Laing O’Rourke but the company is responsible as the holder of the Environment Protection Licence.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations James Goodwin said the alleged breach occurred in March this year.

“On 19 March 2020, 6,056 litres of liquid with a pH of 1.09 was discharged into the bay. The low pH was caused by sulphuric acid used in the water treatment process and was well outside the pH limits of 6.5-8.5 permitted by the licence.

“Laing O’Rourke did not notify the EPA of the incident until five days later, on March 24. Water sampling they undertook between 26 – 31 March did not identify any environmental harm.

“There was a subsequent, alleged incident on 8 June 2020, when approximately 18,000 litres of water with a pH of 5.9 to 6.15 was discharged from the water treatment plant, this time onto land within the construction site,” Mr Goodwin said.

Since the two incidents, the company has undertaken a range of steps to upgrade its systems to prevent further unauthorised discharges and notify in a timely fashion any that do occur.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. In this instance the EPA issued a penalty notice. The notice recipient may pay the penalty notice, seek a review, or elect to have the matter determined by a court.

/Public Release.