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EPA Fines Company $30,000 for Breaching Licence and Polluting Waters

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has recently fined South Coast Plant Hire Pty Ltd (South Coast), a resource recovery facility in Bomaderry, $30,000 for allegedly breaching its licence conditions and discharging waste water from the site.

It is alleged that South Coast Plant Hire failed in its responsibilities when its operations led to polluted water flowing off-site.

In December 2017, the EPA carried out a site inspection and found a containment system holding polluted water had overflowed. The water was used to suppress dust and contained waste water from stockpiles.

The EPA issued a clean-up notice directing South Coast to clean-up the area where the discharge occurred and put measures in place to prevent further pollution. Two penalty notices were subsequently issued to South Coast totalling $30,000.

Clean up notices, prevention notices and penalty notices are some of the tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance.

Clean-up notices

Pursuant to s 92 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), the EPA is able to issue a clean-up notice when it reasonably suspects that a pollution incident has occurred or is occurring or when the release of a pollutant is likely or imminent. The notices may direct that action is taken to prevent, minimise, remove, disperse, destroy or mitigate pollution resulting from or likely to occur from an incident. The notice details the specific clean-up action required and a time frame for completion.
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Costly Coal Spill in World Heritage Area

EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82 per Robson J

Background

Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd (Clarence Colliery) operates a coal mine near Newnes Junction in the Blue Mountains area.  In July 2015 an overtopping incident occurred where 2,300 tonnes of coal escaped from a coal storage area and entered an unnamed watercourse, the Wollangambe River and the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park.

National Parks are declared for exceptional natural values and must be protected for future generations.

The EPA issued clean-up notices and oversaw a comprehensive clean-up of the coal material including over 44 inspections and over 600 helicopter trips to remove the coal from the river. The clean-up efforts cost more than $2M.

Offences

In EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82, Clarence Colliery was prosecuted by the Environment Protection Authority for negligently causing the escape of a coal material that harmed the environment.  The two offences were under:
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