Hosing spilt chemicals down drain leads to $15,000 fine from NSW EPA

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined a Goulburn company $15,000 for polluting waters after herbicide was allegedly washed into a stormwater drain.

Wolfcon Pty Ltd did not notify emergency services authorities of the alleged spill of the herbicide Paraquat from a chemical spray truck at their Goulburn site on 30 November 2020.

The EPA launched an investigation after the spill was reported to the EPA’s 24-hour Environment Line by a member of the public the following day.

The herbicide was detected by EPA officers in the Mulwaree River 2.3 km downstream from the site of the spill on 2 December 2020.

EPA officers also noticed puddles of blue liquid on the ground at the premises. Testing later showed these puddles had high concentrations of Paraquat.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations Cate Woods said Wolfcon complied with clean-up directions once the EPA contacted them.

“The company told the EPA they spent four hours hosing the spilt herbicide into the stormwater as they were concerned for their worker’s safety,” she said.

“This resulted in natural waterways being polluted, with the Paraquat solution washed from the premises to the Mulwaree River via the stormwater system.

“The lesson here is do not try to clean up chemical spills yourself. The correct procedure is to call triple zero for expert assistance and to also report the spill to the EPA.

“That is the best way to ensure employee safety and to make sure spills are contained and any damage to the environment is minimised.''

Ms Woods said herbicides washed into waterways could harm plant and aquatic life. The toxic substances also pose a potential risk to pets such as dogs being walked along the river.

The EPA is currently reminding small industries and businesses that only clean rainwater should enter stormwater drains to protect local waterways.

Best practice stormwater management for businesses includes bunding for chemical storage to contain any potential spills, dedicated washdown areas that don’t flow into stormwater drains and understanding the correct emergency response to spills.

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warning, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and direction and prosecutions. In this case the EPA issued a penalty notice.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools see the EPA Compliance Policy on the EPA website.