Until 2016, Truegain Pty Limited operated a waste oil refinery at 62 Kyle Street, Rutherford (the Premises) under Environment Protection Licence 7638. Truegain entered into liquidation during 2016 and the site was effectively abandoned. Mr Robert Pullinger, the site owner and sole director of Truegain, continues to be responsible for the management of the Premises.
There are large amounts of waste water at the Premises contaminated with hydrocarbons and other contaminants including PFAS. All rainwater that falls on the Premises is collected in a series of bunds or on hard surfaces which overflow to an underground tank. In March 2018, following heavy rain, PFAS contaminated waters discharged from the Premises into the nearby Stony Creek. Further information on sampling of waters in Stony Creek and fact sheets on Stony, Fishery and Wallis Creeks can be found at https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/contaminated-land/pfas-investigation-program/pfas-investigation-sites/truegain
How are the risks being managed?
Managing Pollution Risks
The EPA has pursued a range of regulatory and legal action against the owner of the premises in order to ensure that any environmental and health risks associated with the site are managed appropriately. The efforts have focused on cleaning up contaminated wastewater at the premises and more specifically contaminated rainwater which accumulates in the bunds. A summary of the regulatory and legal actions which have been undertaken by the EPA is provided in Attachment 1.
Between October 2018 and April 2019 the owner treated and removed approximately 1,700,000 litres of wastewater which accumulated in the spill containment system. The owner then allegedly ran out of funds and ceased managing the wastewater. Since that time the EPA has been monitoring the site and arranging for the removal of the wastewater from the underground tank for disposal. This system has been successful in preventing overflows from the site.
This system of monitoring and tankering offsite has recently been upgraded with a standalone interception system which has been constructed onsite. The EPA engaged Suez Recycling and Recovery Australia in January 2021 to design, construct and operate the new interception system. The new interception system collects wastewater from the hardstand areas and pumps the water to aboveground tanks. The system can be remotely monitored and as necessary arrangements are made for off-site disposal of the wastewater. The EPA also conducts its own independent monitoring of the system.
Managing safety risks
Due to the abandoned nature of the premises there has been a number of vandalism incidents at the premises. The EPA is working with the owner to take actions to secure the premises. In December 2020, the EPA arranged for the installation of cameras at the site and engaged Maitland City Council to clear debris and vegetation from the site perimeter.
The EPA is also regularly communicating with the Police and Fire and Rescue NSW and recently Fire and Rescue NSW assisted the EPA by removing all remaining chemicals for the laboratory building at the front of the premises for disposal.
Managing for the long term
The EPA is currently exploring options for a medium to long-term solution for the site which will be more cost-effective than the current management system for the site. Tenders have been sought via a multistage tender process, in order to identify an appropriate supplier and innovative solution.
The initial stage of this tender process involves a Request for Proposal (RFP) which closes on 26 February 2021. Shortlisted respondents will be invited to provide a Request for Tender (RFT) to inform the final selection of a preferred tenderer and solution.
Attachment 1 - Significant Regulatory and Legal Actions
The EPA has taken the following actions to facilitate the clean-up of the Premises
During operation of the premises – Prior to 2016
|The EPA issued 18 penalty notices and twice prosecuted the company in the Land and Environment Court.|
|April 2016||Environment Protection Licence 7638 suspended||To prevent licensed activities being undertaken at the Premises.|
|September 2016||Prevention Notices||Requiring the Premises owners to manage accumulated hydrocarbon contaminated rainwater.|
|June 2017||Clean-up Notice was issued to the owner||The Clean-Up Notice required the owner remove contaminated liquids from the Premises bunds and underground tank.|
|January 2018||Environment Protection Licence revoked||The licence was revoked because of unpaid fees and because the licensee was considered no longer a fit and proper person to hold a licence.|
|May 2018||Clean-up Notice is varied||The Clean-up Notice was varied to include removal of contaminated liquids from the bunds, underground tank and aboveground tanks.|
|August 2020||Prohibition Notice issued by Minister||The Notice required that the owner cease storing waste and harmful substances at the Premises for a period of two years from the date of the Notice.|
|2019-20||Cost Compliance Notices||Notices were issued to the owner to pay EPA costs incurred for removing contaminated liquid from the Premises.|
|September 2020||Prosecutions commenced||Against the owner and two related entities for allegedly failing to comply with EPA notices to provide information and records.|
Civil debt recovery proceedings commenced
Against the owner for the alleged failure to comply with Cost Compliance Notices issued to recover costs incurred by the EPA for the clean-up of the Premises.
Against the owner for allegedly failing to comply with the Clean-Up Notice (as Varied) and the Prohibition Notice.