Newcastle City Council has plead guilty in Newcastle Local Court and been fined $110,000 and ordered to pay costs for water pollution following an incident at Summerhill Waste Management Facility (SWMF) in 2021.
NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) prosecuted the Council for two offences after heavy rainfall resulted in leachate impacted water overflowing into nearby Wentworth Creek. Leachate is the liquid that flows through waste, usually found in landfills and at waste facilities.
EPA Director Operations David Gathercole said the two offences related to the pollution of a waterway and the proper management of equipment.
“Specialised dams which capture leachate at the Summerhill facility were already overfilled and with heavy rain the dams then overflowed into a drainage channel connected to Wentworth Creek,” Mr Gathercole said.
“Additionally, leachate was also discharged from a particular valve on-site which had not been fully closed.”
Mr Gathercole said the waterways impacted are home to aquatic life and are important recreational areas for the Newcastle community.
“This is not the first time the EPA has acted against the Council following an incident at SWMF. They were convicted of a similar offence in 2019 and the community rightly expects better from their local council.
“The protection and restoration of waterways is important in our communities and astute water management practices at local waste facilities is integral to this goal.
“This latest fine should serve as a reminder to all operators of waste management facilities to continually monitor leachate dams to minimise the risk of overflow events and ensure that appropriate environmental controls are in place.”
The Court also ordered Newcastle City Council to pay the EPA’s legal and investigation costs totalling more than $60,000 and publish details of the conviction in the Newcastle Herald and on its social media accounts.
The EPA encourages the community to report potential water pollution incidents to the Environment Line on 131 555.
For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm