The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued $30,000 in fines to Sydney Water Corporation for alleged breaches of their Environment Protection Licence in relation to the inadequate clean-up of sewage overflows which impacted waterways in Colebee and Caringbah South.
Approximately 126,000 litres of raw sewage was discharged from a leak in a sewer rising main impacting about 1.5 kilometres of an unnamed creek and Bells Creek at Colebee in western Sydney on 11 February 2019.
At Caringbah South, an unnamed creek and Port Hacking were affected by a sewage overflow on 3 March 2019 which impacted water quality.
The EPA’s Director Regulatory Operations Giselle Howard said Sydney Water’s Environment Protection Licence requires it to take all necessary actions as soon as possible in response to a sewage overflow to minimise the impact on the environment and public health.
“Untreated sewage can pose a risk to human health and have significant environmental impacts on waterways and land,” Ms Howard said.
“For both incidents, the EPA alleges that Sydney Water failed to contain and clean-up the raw sewage as quickly as required.”
Following a series of dry weather sewage overflows from its sewerage systems between November 2017 and September 2018, the EPA added special conditions to each of Sydney Water’s 23 sewage treatment system environment protection licences, requiring an independent assessment of Sydney Water’s overarching management and operational framework for responding to dry weather sewage overflows.
This program of works aims to improve environmental management practices at Sydney Water and in particular improve their response to sewage overflows.
Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, legally binding pollution reduction programs, enforceable undertakings and prosecutions.