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Environment Protection Authority

Hunter Water Corporation fined for poor maintenance at Dungog plant

Media release: 2 August 2017

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Hunter Water Corporation $15,000 for leaks and poor maintenance practices at its Dungog Water Treatment Plant.

EPA Director Hunter Karen Marler said the company was fined for a breach of their environment protection licence as a result of their failure to properly maintain equipment at the plant. 

“A thorough EPA inspection has meant the licensee and operators were made aware of the problems, so quick preventative action could be taken,” Ms Marler said.

The Dungog Water Treatment Plant treats water from Chichester Dam. During a site inspection of the treatment plant in May 2017, EPA officers found that several pipes were suffering from contaminant build-up and corrosion and there were some leaks that if left unchecked, could potentially flow into the stormwater system.

Affected parts of the plant included the Alum process system (where aluminium sulphate is added to the water as part of the treatment process) and the pre-lime dosing injection point.

“While there was no evidence the poor maintenance had caused actual environmental damage, the chemicals involved can be toxic in the environment and this situation posed an unacceptable risk.

“Hunter Water Corporation has since repaired each leak and is undertaking work to upgrade the premises.”

In June 2016, the NSW Land and Environment Court convicted and fined Hunter Water Corporation after it pleaded guilty to four charges relating to water pollution when a faulty pump at the Dungog plant caused hydrofluorosilicic acid to leak into a stormwater drain and a local creek. Hunter Water also discharged heavily chlorinated water into the same creek. It was determined that poor maintenance practices had led to this incident. The fines and court costs imposed on Hunter Water for these offences were more than a quarter of a million dollars. 

As part of the court case, Hunter Water Corporation recognised the need to improve maintenance practices and submitted its own recommendations as to the improvements and upgrades that would be made to the plant to prevent future pollution incidents.

Ms Marler said it was disappointing to see inadequacies in maintenance practices given the previous prosecution taken by the EPA.

“The EPA will continue to monitor practices at the plant to ensure that maintenance checks are improved.”

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions 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: Public Affairs

Page last updated: 02 August 2017