Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA prosecution rate puts polluters on notice

Media release: 11 October 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has maintained its strong record of successful prosecutions with a rate above 95 per cent in the last financial year, signalling that if you pollute in NSW, you will face the consequences.

The EPA achieved 39 successful prosecutions, from 40 cases, last financial year, with guilty polluters hit with more than $700,000 in fines and financial penalties.

Fines ranged from $100 issued to an individual for littering in Newtown, to a company receiving a $120,000 fine for emitting offensive fumes.

EPA Chief Environmental Regulator, Mark Gifford, said the figures showed that the state’s polluters were being held accountable for the damage their actions caused to the environment.

“The results over the past 12 months should put polluters on high alert: if you flout the law, no matter how big or small, you’re putting the environment and health of our community at risk and we have a low tolerance of serious offenders,” Mr Gifford said.

“Whether it is throwing rubbish onto the street, illegal dumping, smoky vehicles, or corporate negligence resulting in actual or potential environmental harm, the EPA will respond appropriately and for the most significant cases, this may involve prosecution through the courts.”

In the past 12 months, the courts imposed a number of heavy penalties, including:

  • In October 2015, the Land and Environment Court ordered motor oil company Nulon Products Australia to pay a $120,000 fine and to apologise to nearby workers after offensive fumes were emitted from its Moorebank factory, causing nausea, coughing, headaches and discomfort to local residents and workers.
  • In August 2015, bulk haulage company Alcobell Pty Ltd was convicted for illegally transporting and dumping more than 6,500 tonnes of building and demolition waste, including asbestos-tainted waste, at rural properties near Lithgow. The company was ordered to pay penalties totalling $70,000 for the dumping offences. The director of Alcobell was also fined a total of $17,000 for the dumping offences and for knowingly providing false or misleading information to the EPA. 
  • In June this year, Hunter Water Corporation was convicted by the Land and Environment Court and penalised a total of $187,500 for a 2014 incident in which a broken pump at their Dungog Water Treatment Plant leaked fluoride into the nearby Slaughterhouse Creek. The corporation then used chlorinated water to flush the leaked fluoride, causing even more harm to the creek and putting local aquatic biota at risk of serious harm. The Court ordered that $150,000 of the penalty be paid to the Hunter Local Land Services to fund environmental works on the Dungog Common Recreation reserve and $37,500 be paid to the Environmental Trust for general environmental purposes. 

Enforceable Undertakings are another tool available to the EPA. In some cases the EPA can agree to a polluter entering into a written undertaking, under which the polluter agrees to take action to improve its environmental systems and to make amends for a pollution incident by completing environmental rehabilitation or enhancement works. These undertakings are enforceable in the Land and Environment Court.

Coal & Allied Operations Pty Ltd entered into such an enforceable undertaking last year, following a water pollution incident. Under the agreement, Coal & Allied Operations  agreed to undertake a number of corrective actions and pay $130,000 in works for regeneration, revegetation and weed management of 10 hectares at the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia site at Shortland.

One of the important pieces of environment protection legislation administered by the EPA is the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. For the most serious offences under this legislation courts can impose maximum penalties of $5 million for corporations and $1 million or seven years imprisonment for individuals.

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 11 October 2016