Council fined after 1.3 million litres of raw sewage discharged

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has welcomed the Armidale Local Court’s decision to convict and fine Tenterfield Shire Council $50,000 for the discharge of more than 1.3 million litres of untreated sewage onto private land – an unknown quantity of which then entered Tenterfield Creek.

EPA Regional Director North Adam Gilligan said that in June 2016, a blockage in a sewer main, owned and operated by Council, caused approximately 1,320,000 litres of raw sewage to discharge.

“This was a huge amount of raw, untreated sewage – more than a million litres – discharged via a manhole straight onto private land – some of which then entered Tenterfield Creek,” Mr Gilligan said.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) prosecuted the Council for water pollution under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Tenterfield Shire Council pleaded guilty to the charge. In sentencing the Council, the Court found that the offence was in the range of moderate to high seriousness.

The Court fined the Council $50,000, ordered the Council to pay the EPA’s investigation and legal costs, and also ordered the Council to pay for and place advertisements in two newspapers and in their own newsletter publicising the Council’s conviction and fine.

Mr Gilligan said Council’s monitoring system picked up significant discrepancies in the sewage flow volumes over several days but no action was taken for four days.

“The Court found that Tenterfield Shire Council did not follow its own Asset Management Plan and did not manage known major risks.”

In 2000 Tenterfield Shire Council was convicted for a water pollution offence relating to the discharge of 300,000 litres of sewage into Tenterfield Creek.

As a result of the EPA’s investigation into this pollution incident, the EPA is working with the Council to improve its sewage monitoring system and prevent a similar incident occurring in the future.