EPA fines Sydney Water $120,000

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued $120,000 in fines to Sydney Water for inadequate clean-up of sewage overflows which impacted Sydney’s waterways.

EPA Regional Director Metropolitan Giselle Howard said the EPA undertook a compliance campaign to assess the adequacy of Sydney Water’s responses to sewage overflows from its sewerage systems.

“The sewage overflows assessed were from across the network and subsequently reached environmentally sensitive areas such as local creeks. The overflows occurred under normal operating conditions, such as blockages,” Ms Howard said.

“The campaign identified significant issues with Sydney Water’s performance, particularly in relation to the timeliness and adequacy of clean-up of impacted waterways.

“It is essential Sydney Water undertakes all necessary actions as soon as possible in response to a sewage overflow to minimise the impacts on the environment and public health.

“Untreated sewage can have significant environmental impacts on waterways and land, as well as posing a risk to human health.”

A total of eight penalty notices - worth $15,000 each - were issued to Sydney Water for alleged breaches identified at six overflows that were investigated by the EPA.

The EPA issued a penalty notice each for six incidents for failing to comply with a licence condition that requires Sydney Water to take all reasonable and feasible actions as soon as practicable in response to a sewage overflow. The incidents are outlined below. The EPA also issued a further two penalty notices for failure to comply with the conditions of a clean-up notice in relation to the North Wahroonga and Bangor incidents which occurred on 13 January.

An outline of the six incidents are as follows:

  1. Cammeray overflow into Flat Rock Creek and Middle Harbour (12 November 2017)
  2. Killara overflow into Falls Creek in the Lane Cover River catchment (13 January 2018)
  3. North Wahroonga overflow into Caley Brook in the Cowan Creek catchment (13 January 2018)
  4. Bangor overflow into Still Creek and its unnamed tributary in the Woronora River catchment (13 January 2018)
  5. Bangor overflow into Still Creek and its unnamed tributary in the Woronora River catchment (21 January 2018)
  6. Illawong overflow into an unnamed tributary creek of Still Creek in the Woronora River catchment (28 January 2018)

The EPA is currently considering its next steps to address the deficiencies that it has identified in Sydney Water’s overflow response performance.

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, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs, mandatory audits and prosecutions.

The maximum penalty for not complying with a condition of an environment protection licence or a clean-up notice is a court imposed fine of $1 million for a corporation and $120,000 each day the offence continues. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.