Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA fines Wingecarribee Council $15,000 for Sewage Treatment Plant incident

Media release: 28 April 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Wingecarribee Shire Council $15,000 for an incident at its Robertson Sewage Treatment Plant (STP).

On January 27 2016, approximately 3,700 litres of 30% caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) solution was released from a storage tank at the site, escaping a bunded area, and draining into a stormwater channel adjacent to the STP.

The incident occurred over a 24 hour period before Council became aware of the issue. Upon realising the incident, Council initiated actions to contain the caustic solution, reported the incident to the EPA, and notified other agencies and adjacent landowners. Council subsequently undertook site remediation and has implemented measures to prevent a recurrence.

Following investigation of the incident, the EPA has determined that the storage of caustic solution was not undertaken in a competent manner, as required by the facility’s Environment Protection Licence.

NSW EPA Manager Illawarra, Mr Peter Bloem, said that while the incident had potential to cause significant off-site impact, it has not caused harm to the surrounding environment.

“Monitoring of the pH of surrounding water bodies indicates that none of the caustic solution left the premises and entered nearby water bodies,” Mr Bloem said.

“Fortunately the large spill collected in a natural depression and did not enter Kangaloon Gully Creek.

“However the EPA views all non-compliances seriously. Council must ensure that it maintains a high level of environmental performance and statutory compliance at all times.”

Penalty notices are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.

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

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 28 April 2016