Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Public report helps EPA to catch polluter

Media release: 7 September 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined home care products manufacturer, Unilever Australia Trading Ltd (Unilever Australia) $15,000 for polluting waters at Rifle Range Creek, North Rocks.

The EPA investigated the company and issued it the fine following a tip off about pollution in Rifle Range Creek from a member of the public.

EPA Director Metropolitan Branch, Giselle Howard said, the timeliness of the report meant that when EPA officers arrived on site they were not only able to take samples of the foam and water, but could also trace the pollution back to a stormwater drain near the Unilever premises.

“Lab results confirmed the foam substance was a surfactant, a chemical commonly found in detergents and washing powders. An incident report and statements from company personnel later confirmed that the substance had originated on the Unilever site and had discharged into Rifle Range Creek from a broken stormwater pipe off the premises.  

“Time is of the essence when it comes to water pollution incidents like this because pollutants, especially something like foam, will often disperse quickly in water or travel a fair distance from the point of discharge, as a results of strong currents, wind or rain in the local catchment.  

“Tracking the source, or cause of pollution can be very difficult at times leaving some water pollution incidents unsolved and the culprits never held accountable for their actions – in this case we were pleased to be able to trace the source thanks to the public,” Ms Howard said.

Environment Line reports can be logged by calling 131 555 or via the EPA website.

When making an Environment Line report members of the public should include as much information as possible about the nature of the incident including: date, time, location, a description of the pollution including type, characteristics, duration and any evidence of environmental harm.

Since the incident, Unilever Australia has taken steps to improve their operations, including undertaking a review of current stormwater management procedures to ensure staff are actively working to improve their environmental performance and are in line with current industry best-practice technology.

Fines are just one of the tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance amongst industry operators. For more information about environmental regulatory tools and processes see the EPA’s Compliance Policy 

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Contact: Public Affairs

Page last updated: 07 September 2016