EPA fines Sydney Water $60,000

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued $45,000 in fines to Sydney Water for alleged inadequate clean-up of sewage overflows which impacted Sydney’s waterways in Pymble, Faulconbridge and Forestville.

EPA Regional Director Metropolitan Giselle Howard said the EPA undertook a compliance campaign in May-June 2018 to assess the adequacy of Sydney Water’s responses to dry weather sewage overflows from its sewerage systems.

A similar compliance campaign undertaken in November 2017-January 2018 resulted in the EPA issuing fines of $120,000 to Sydney Water in relation to six similar incidents.

“Both campaigns identified significant issues with Sydney Water’s performance, particularly in relation to the overarching management and operational framework for responding to dry weather sewage overflows which can impact waterways,” Ms Howard said.

“It is essential that 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 pose a risk to human health and have significant environmental impacts on waterways and land.”

The EPA investigated and identified the alleged breaches at three overflows and issued three penalty notices of $15,000 each, to Sydney Water:

  1. Pymble overflow into an unnamed creek in the Lane Cove River catchment (3 May 2018)
  2. Faulconbridge overflow into bushland and gully (27 May 2018)
  3. Forestville overflow into bushland and an unnamed creek in Garigal National Park (25 June 2018)

The address the poor performance the EPA added special conditions requiring an independent assessment of Sydney Water’s overarching management and operational framework for responding to dry weather sewage overflows to each of Sydney Water’s 23 environment protection licences,

Additionally, in a separate matter, the EPA fined Sydney Water $15,000 after an alleged breach involving 26 million litres of treated sewage, with an elevated ammonia concentration, was discharged from Rouse Hill Sewage Treatment Plant into Seconds Pond Creek in April 2018.

Penalty notices and licence condition changes are some of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, which can also include formal warnings, 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.