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Environment Protection Authority

Elf Farm handed $100,000 penalty for polluting creek

Media release: 2 June 2017

The Land and Environment Court has handed down a $100,000 penalty to Elf Farm Supplies Pty Ltd (Elf Farm), following successful prosecution by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) after the company unlawfully irrigated waste water and polluted South Creek, near Windsor, in May 2015.

Elf Farm composts waste products to produce a mushroom farming product. The EPA prosecuted Elf Farm on two counts: (1) for water pollution; and (2) for breaching a condition of its environment protection licence that requires it to carry out its operations in a competent manner.

The Land and Environment Court convicted Elf Farm of each offence and penalised the company $45,000 for the water pollution offence and $55,000 for breaching its licence.  with the penalties ordered to go to Hawkesbury City Council to fund South Creek riparian rehabilitation works.

The Court also ordered Elf Farm to publicise details of the offences in the Hawkesbury Gazette and the Hawkesbury Courier and to pay the EPA’s legal costs.

EPA Executive Director Waste and Resource Recovery Steve Beaman said the judgment reflected the severity of Elf Farm’s conduct.

“This prosecution should send a message to any facility with an environment protection licence that flouting the conditions of that licence can have significant consequences, including Court convictions and fines,” Mr Beaman said.

“The conditions of environment protection licences are there to protect the environment and it is the role of the EPA to ensure these conditions are complied with and to step in and protect the environment and community when they are not.”

In May 2015, following heavy rain the previous month, Elf Farm pumped waste water over several days from its effluent storage dam to irrigate the surface of a paddock they owned. As the paddock area became saturated, between 19 and 21 May 2015 the waste water flowed across the paddock surface and ultimately discharged into South Creek. This occurred because Elf Farm did not administer or adhere to proper pumping and irrigation procedures.

In total, about 200,000 litres of polluted waste water was discharged.

The waste water that discharged into South Creek contained high levels of ammonia. It was a brown-black substance that formed a white foam as it cascaded down the bank and entered the Creek.

The community alerted the EPA to the incident, after observing the discharge.

While the waste water was still discharging into South Creek, EPA officers inspected the site and a scientific analysis of the discharged liquid found that it had the potential to harm aquatic organisms in South Creek.

Since the incident, Elf Farm has improved its documented procedures, increased supervision of pumping works, and introduced a formal training procedure for staff involved in any pumping practices. 

Contact: Public Affairs

Page last updated: 02 June 2017