EPA takes legal action against Cleanaway for pollution of river

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has commenced proceedings in the Land and Environment Court to prosecute Cleanaway Equipment Services Pty Ltd for three offences, from two spill incidents at its premises in Queanbeyan, in May 2020.

The EPA alleges that on 14 May 2020, the solvent Vivasol 2046 leaked from the Queanbeyan premises into the stormwater system and flowed into the Molonglo River, and Cleanaway took approximately five hours to report the incident to the EPA.

Cleanaway is charged with one offence of water pollution and additionally for failing to immediately notify the EPA of a pollution incident.

The second alleged water pollution offence occurred on 15 May 2020 when water containing Vivasol 2046 was discharged from the premises and again entered the stormwater system, resulting in a charge of water pollution.

The maximum penalty for a water pollution offence is $1 million and for an offence of failing to notify the EPA of a pollution incident is $2 million.

EPA Chief Executive Officer Tracy Mackey said all NSW businesses needed to get the message that if their site impacted the environment, they could expect to be held to account.

“Our NSW community deserves clean waterways that aren’t polluted by careless or negligent actions,” Ms Mackey said.

“I am concerned that it took Cleanaway five hours to notify us, putting the Molonglo River and dependent ecosystem, plants and animals relying on the river, at further risk.”

The pollution incidents were the catalyst for a series of unannounced simultaneous inspections of Cleanaway facilities at 27 locations by over 50 EPA officers on in June 2020.

These inspections resulted in EPA taking regulatory actions including Cleanaway being fined $15,000 for alleged waste storage offences at Rutherford. The EPA has also previously taken action against Cleanaway for poor storage of waste at their Rutherford premises and for poor record keeping at their South Windsor premises.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm