EPA fines Macquarie AGL for water pollution

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued 2 penalty notices of $15,000 each to Macquarie AGL for a pollution incident that occurred at the Bayswater Power Station near Muswellbrook. 

AGL Macquarie notified the EPA of a low pH reading in Tinkers Creek on 24 November 2015.

The EPA’s investigation revealed that a failed injection pump discharge isolating valve caused sulphuric acid to enter two stormwater drains and subsequently flow to Tinkers Creek.

Approximately 6000 litres of sulphuric acid was reported to have entered the stormwater system, which drains to Lake Liddell and provides cooling water for the power station. 

In response to this incident the EPA issued two $15,000 penalty notices for breaches of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 – one for failing to maintain equipment in a proper and efficient manner and the second for breaching the pH limits prescribed by Environment Protection Licence 779, which authorises operations at the Bayswater Power Station. 

The EPA also issued official cautions to AGL Macquarie for polluting waters and failing to carry out licensed activities in a competent manner.

Adam Gilligan, EPA Hunter Region Manager said “while Macquarie AGL did the right thing by notifying us as soon as they noticed the issue, pollution of waters is taken very seriously by the EPA and is why two fines and official cautions were issued in this instance.”

Penalty notices are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve compliance with the dangerous goods transport legislation, others include investigation, improvement and prohibition notices; cancellation, suspension and variation of dangerous goods vehicle and driver’s licences; official cautions; 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 www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.