Road construction company fined $30K for water pollution

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Pacific Highway upgrade construction company Laing O’Rourke $30,000 for alleged mismanagement of concrete waste and pollution of a watercourse.

During an EPA inspection of a Pacific Highway Upgrade concrete batch plant on 23 July 2020, south of New Italy, officers found evidence of concrete overflowing from an earthen bund into the surrounding environment.

EPA officers also discovered concrete contaminated wastewater discharging into the local environment. This concrete contaminated wastewater was also found to be flowing down a natural drainage line, leading to a watercourse.

Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction Pty Ltd is the holder of an Environment Protection Licence for the construction of the Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the Pacific Highway Upgrade project. The concrete batch plant inspected by the EPA was operated by a contractor on behalf of the licensee.

The EPA issued two $15 000 penalty notices to Laing O’Rourke for water pollution and failing to manage the storage of the concrete waste in a competent manner.

EPA Acting Director Regional Operations Brett Nudd said uncontrolled concrete waste can be harmful to the environment.

“Concrete waste can increase the pH of surrounding waters and has the potential to harm aquatic life and pollute water for animals and ecosystems that rely on it,” Mr Nudd said.

“Licensees are required to capture and store concrete waste-water and solids in a secure bunded area to help protect the local environment.”

The concrete batch plant area is being rehabilitated with the location now covered by recycled soil material generated from the road construction activities.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, legally binding pollution reduction programs, enforceable undertakings and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy