Sydney Water sentenced over Lane Cove sewage pollution

Sydney Water has been convicted and penalised a total of $145,000 over sewage pollution in the Lane Cove National Park and Lane Cove River, following prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

In the NSW Land and Environment Court in early November, Justice Pain convicted Sydney Water for one water pollution offence and one offence of breaching its Environment Protection Licence. Sydney Water pleaded guilty to the offences.

In July 2018, around 64,000 litres of untreated sewage overflowed from a maintenance point in Lane Cove National Park at North Epping and was subsequently flushed into nearby bushland, a local creek and the Lane Cove River, as Sydney Water technicians attempted to clean-up the discharge.

Instead of removing the sewage that remained in the bushland and creek, Sydney Water washed the raw sewage into the Lane Cove River.

Due to failures in Sydney Water’s instructions and communication with staff, the clean-up of the remaining raw sewage in Lane Cove National Park was not completed for more than three weeks.

Justice Pain said “Sydney Water could reasonably have foreseen the likelihood of harm and greater risk to human health (both unquantifiable) of opening the mains water valve on 29 and 30 July 2018, before adequate clean-up took place.”

Justice Pain also said “The prolonged failure to clean up over a three week period giving rise to the Licence Offence was unsatisfactory to say the least”. Her Honour also said the failure to clean up adequately continued for a lengthy period and occurred only when Sydney Water was prompted by the EPA to do so.

Sydney Water was ordered to pay $127,000 of the $145,000 penalty to the Lane Cove National Park Bush Regeneration Project. It was also ordered to pay the EPA’s investigation costs of $24,369 plus legal costs and to publicise its convictions in the Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Telegraph and local newspaper as well as on social media.