Sydney Water fined $30,000 for sewage overflow at Bangor

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Sydney Water $30,000 after 67,000 litres of untreated sewage was discharged during a sewage overflow into Still Creek and another unnamed creek in the Woronora Catchment, Bangor on 14 September 2018.

EPA Regional Director Metropolitan Giselle Howard said the overflow at Bangor was investigated as part of an EPA compliance campaign, during May to September 2018 to assess the adequacy of Sydney Water’s responses to dry weather sewage overflows from its sewerage systems.

“Untreated sewage can pose a risk to human health and have significant environmental impacts on waterways and land,” Ms Howard said.

The EPA investigated and identified two alleged breaches at the overflow at Bangor: one for Sydney Water’s inadequate response to the overflow and one for failure to comply with the clean-up notice issued by the EPA. The creeks affected by this incident were the same as those affected by sewage overflows in Bangor in January 2018 for which the EPA issued three penalty notices.

Ms Howard said that the overall outcome of the EPA’s May to September 2018 compliance campaign is the issuing of five penalty notices, resulting in a total of $75,000 in fines issued to Sydney Water for incidents relating to inadequate response to dry weather sewage overflows. The EPA had previously issued three penalty notices to Sydney Water for incidents at Pymble, Faulconbridge and Forestville. **

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

“Both campaigns identified significant issues with Sydney Water’s performance in responding to dry weather sewage overflows with potential to impact waterways. This has resulted in the EPA issuing $195,000 in fines to Sydney Water which is unprecedented,” Ms Howard said.

To address the poor performance of Sydney Water, on 25 March 2019 the EPA also added special conditions to each of Sydney Water’s 23 sewage treatment system environment protection licences, requiring an independent assessment of Sydney Water’s overarching management and operational framework for responding to dry weather sewage overflows.

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

*For more information about this campaign, see EPA media release

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2018/epamedia181010-epa-fines-sydney-water-$120000.

**For further reading, see EPA media release

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2019/epamedia190409-epa-fines-sydney-water-$45000