EPA fines steel producer for alleged water pollution

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Bluescope Steel (AIS) Pty Ltd $15,000 for allegedly releasing polluted process water into a drain which feeds into Port Kembla Harbour.

On 17 April 2021, Bluescope Steel identified that a Coke Ovens Gas (COG) condensate tank overflowed into a stormwater drain at its Port Kembla Steelworks. The overflow was caused by an operator leaving a water valve open resulting in up to 100 litres of condensate making its way into the drain.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations Jacinta Hanemann said sampling of the spilled COG condensate undertaken by Bluescope Steel revealed the presence of harmful pollutants.

“Spilled COG condensate has the potential to cause environmental harm because it contains concentrated and harmful pollutants,” Ms Hanemann said.

“In isolation, this incident would be not be considered environmentally significant, but over the previous five years, the EPA has responded to several similar incidents. Furthermore, this incident was preventable.

“Having regard to the preventability of the incident, the repeat nature of the incident and the potential for environmental harm, a Penalty Notice was considered the appropriate regulatory response.

Licensees must comply with the requirements of their licence. Furthermore, the community rightly expects licensees to have adequate procedures in place to ensure they maintain appropriate environmental controls.”

Bluescope Steel has committed to a comprehensive condensate management program across their site to implement future improvements to these systems.

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA compliance policy on the EPA website.