Hunter Water signs an Enforceable Undertaking following chemical spill in Swansea NSW

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has agreed to an Enforceable Undertaking with the Hunter Water Corporation following a pollution incident.

The EPA’s Acting Director North, Brett Nudd, said that an Enforceable Undertaking is a legally binding regulatory response the EPA can use where it is concerned there has been a breach of environmental legislation. 

The pollution incident occurred in January 2013 when approximately 350 litres of corrosive liquid spilled onto soil at a sewerage pump station in Swansea, NSW. 

Mr Nudd said that under the Enforceable Undertaking, Hunter Water has agreed to pay $60,000 to the Lake Macquarie City Council for regeneration works at nearby Black Ned’s Bay, to put into action a comprehensive Remedial Action Plan and to take other steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. 

“In January 2013 a contractor to Hunter Water reported that corrosive liquid containing ferrous chloride and hydrochloric acid had spilled onto soil due to a mechanical failure at a wastewater pump station located at 137 Northcote Avenue, Swansea. The corrosive liquid is toxic to humans by inhalation, ingestion and skin contact, and acutely toxic to fauna and flora, in particular aquatic fauna and flora. The contractor had then carried out a series of containment actions, to the satisfaction of Hunter Water. 

“However in June 2013 it was learned that an underground bore adjacent to the spill site had been contaminated by ferrous chloride. Hunter Water then carried out further investigations and informed the EPA of the contamination. 

“The EPA responded by conducting site inspections; taking and analysing samples; requesting and reviewing reports; requesting and reviewing information and records; and issuing a Clean Up notice under section 91 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

“The EPA considers that an Enforceable Undertaking is the appropriate regulatory response in these circumstances. The EU is enforceable through the NSW Land and Environment Court. It allows for the remediation of the environmental impacts and requires actions that will directly benefit the environment and community. Enforceable Undertakings are an effective tool as they ensure on-going compliance, redress environmental harm and can obtain good and lasting benefits.” 

Enforceable undertakings are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, penalty notices, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.

The EPA must also take a range of factors into account before delivering a proportionate regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, whether or not there are any real or potential health impacts, if the action of the offender was deliberate, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes. 

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm

The public are encouraged to report pollution incidents to the EPA via its Environment Line on 131 555.