Successful prosecution for water pollution at Perisher in the Land and Environment Court

The Land and Environment Court has found the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) guilty of polluting waters surrounding OEH’s Perisher Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in southern New South Wales, following successful prosecution by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

The Land and Environment Court has found the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) guilty of polluting waters surrounding OEH’s Perisher Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in southern New South Wales, following successful prosecution by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

The Court fined OEH $84,000 after it polluted the waters of Perisher Creek by discharging partially treated sewage effluent from the STP between June 2017 and September 2017. This resulted in the creek containing elevated levels of ammonia and nitrogen.

The EPA alleged that from February 2017, conditions in the STP tanks were not maintained in a manner that enabled adequate removal of nitrogen of the sewage to occur, which ultimately gave rise to the pollution of Perisher Creek.  

EPA Regional Director South and West Gary Whytcross said the court proceedings came after OEH reported to the EPA that the effluent discharged from the STP exceeded the limits imposed by their Environment Protection Licence for nitrogen and ammonia.

“Samples taken by OEH and the EPA show the effluent from the plant had higher nitrogen and ammonia concentration than the limits imposed OEH’s licence.”

“When the plant is functioning correctly, high quality treated effluent from the STP discharges into Perisher Creek. Unfortunately, during this period, the samples revealed the effluent was not of the quality that is required, which had the potential to harm aquatic life.”

Nitrogen and ammonia concentrations in Perisher Creek downstream of the STP were back at normal levels in November 2017. The Court found that the offence caused very limited actual environmental harm of limited duration.

The Court recognised OEH actively assisted the EPA throughout the investigation. OEH was also ordered to pay the EPA’s investigation and legal costs in the combined amount of $104,204.

OEH has also taken significant action since the incident in an attempt to prevent further incidents including a review of operations at the STP, further training of staff and engaging an independent expert to perform a peer review of the STP’s operations.