Until 2016, Truegain Pty Ltd 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, a site owner and remaining sole director of Truegain, continues to be responsible for the management of the Premises.
The EPA alleges that there are large amounts of waste water at the Premises contaminated with hydrocarbons and other contaminants including PFAS. Rainwater that falls on the Premises is collected in a spill containment system comprising a series of bunds and tanks which overflow to an underground tank. In March 2018, following heavy rain, it is alleged that PFAS contaminated waters discharged from the Premises into the nearby Stony Creek.
- See further information on sampling of waters in Stony Creek and fact sheets on Stony, Fishery and Wallis Creeks.
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 spill containment system. 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.
From 18 March 2021 to 22 March 2021, approximately 129 mm of rain fell on the site and almost 780,000L of wastewater was captured to prevent overflow and possible pollution incidents.
Managing safety risks
There have been several vandalism incidents at 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. On 9 March 2021, the EPA issued a Clean Up Notice to the owner to take actions to secure the Premises, including a range of repairs to fences and buildings and the installation of warning signs. The owner allegedly did not comply with the actions required in the Clean Up Notice. The EPA has now carried out these actions to improve site security and is considering regulatory action to address the alleged non-compliance with the Clean Up Notice.
The EPA regularly communicates with the NSW Police and Fire and Rescue NSW. Fire and Rescue NSW assisted the EPA by removing chemicals from the laboratory building at the front of the Premises for disposal.
Managing for the long term
The NSW Government is progressing a long-term environmental solution for the site. Tenders have been obtained and are being assessed for Phase 1 works, which include the removal and lawful disposal of all waste on site and demolition of above ground structures. The government is also working towards acquiring the site. The tender for the Phase 1 works will not be awarded unless the land is in government ownership.
Attachment 1 - Significant Regulatory and Legal Actions
The Minister for Energy and Environment and the EPA have taken the following regulatory actions in relation to the Premises, including actions to facilitate the clean up of the site and to prevent further environmental harm.
During operation of the premises – Prior to 2016
|The EPA issued 18 penalty notices and twice prosecuted Truegain Pty Ltd (the Licensee) 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 to remove contaminated liquids from the 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 the EPA's costs incurred for clean up actions in 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.
On 23 February 2021, Mr Robert Pullinger was convicted in the Parramatta Local Court for failing to comply with a statutory notice for information and records, and providing false and misleading information in response to a statutory notice. Fines of $3,000 were imposed on Mr Pullinger and two other companies and Mr Pullinger was ordered to pay the EPA’s legal costs. The Court also ordered Mr Pullinger to publicise details of the offences in the Newcastle Herald
Civil debt recovery proceedings commenced
Against the owner 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.
|March 2021||Clean-up Notice was issued to the owner||The Clean-Up Notice required the owner to take action to secure the Premises. The owner has allegedly failed to comply with this Notice, and the EPA is now considering regulatory action.|