13 May 2019

NSW Environmental Penalties

This listing of penalties for environmental breaches summarizes the issues where the EPA is taking action. The amount of the penalty [in the brackets] provides an indication of the seriousness of the breach.

Sediment and Erosion Control

An old clay mine failed to maintain and rehabilitate a site in a competent manner.  Surface water monitoring was inadequate and erosion and sediment controls were poor, which allegedly caused the total suspended solids to be higher than licence limits. [Port Stephens, 4/2019, $15,000]

A contractor's trucks allegedly tracked mud from the exit of a construction site and along 50m of road. The EPA had already sent 2 warnings letters for the issue.  [St Peters, 8/2018, $15,000]

Contaminated water from a storm-water diversion bund was released by a grader working on a mine road. The contaminated water flowed into a farm dam which was in the mine site. While there was no environmental harm, the penalty was applied for not maintaining erosion and sediment controls.  [Singleton, 6/2018, $15,000]

A sawmill with poor sediment and erosion controls did not respond adequately to a Pollution Reduction Program to protect a nearby creek.  [Bucca, 9/2017,  $15,000]


Diesel spilled from a tank after an alleged valve failure at a power station. The tank's bund had not been adequately maintained and an internal alarm system was not effective in triggering a response.  A small amount of diesel made it to a creek after 45 to 75kL originally spilled.  The immediate clean up measures included installing booms in the creek and suction trucks.  [Muswellbrook, 3/2019, $30,000]

A sediment pond at a coal mine was overdosed with Ferric Chloride and then discharged into the Georges River. A part of the river had increased acidity, turbidity, iron and zinc. Injured animals were not observed, but the discharge was at levels that are toxic to aquatic species. The coal mine pumped pollutants back out of a rock pool to mitigate the impacts and rain on the following day diluted the remaining pollutants. The fine was for water pollution and inadequate maintenance of the Ferric Chloride dosing pump. [Appin, 2/2019, $30,000]

Sludge and effluent from a piggery was pumped from a treatment dam onto 7ha of ground to manage odours. The effluent was flowing towards a river. [Tabulam, 1/2019, $15,000 + cleanup costs]
Sand blasting of boats at a marina lead to grit flowing into the river. Controls were not in place to contain the sand blasting grit. [Georges River, 10/2018, $15,000]

The water containment system at a resource recovery facility overflowed and polluted water was discharged from the site. The water was used to suppress dust and contained waste water from stockpiles.  [Bomaderry, 7/2018, $30,000]

Tanks, drums, containers and IBCs containing oils and solvents were stored in a workshop without bunding or a spill containment system in place. If released, the liquids stored in tanks would cause environmental harm.  [Cooranbong, 5/2018, $15,000]

Water containing cement ran down the driveway of a concrete batching plant and into the kerbside gutter. The discharge was not expected to have caused significant environmental harm, but the EPA saw it as preventable.  [Lidcombe, 6/2018, $15,000]

An alleged discharge of 4.8Ml of treated effluent from a sewage treatment plant was too acidic. The discharge pH was as low as 5.02, whereas a pH of less than 6.5 constitutes water pollution. Environmental harm was not able to be shown, but the appropriate operational procedures were not followed.  [Castle Hill, 5/2018,  $15,000]

Approximately 6000L of diesel spilled into Sydney Harbor after contractors decommissioning a fuel tank were not informed of additional piping.  Recommendations had previously been made by environmental consultants to maintain accurate diagrams of fuel tanks and lines.  This was a court conviction for water pollution (s120 of the POEO Act) and an inaccurate environment protection plan (cl19 Underground Petroleum System Storage Regulation).  [Rushcutters Bay, 4/2018,  $157,950 + investigation + legal costs]

The rear of a garbage truck had an ineffective seal which lead to food waste leaking onto the road. While the EPA did not view the leak as causing environmental harm, it also saw the preventive maintenance as inadequate.  [Randwick, 3/2018,  $1500]

Wastewater was discharged into a storm-water drain after inadequately maintained machinery blocked an effluent tank in a diary processing facility. The EPA issued a fine for failing to maintain equipment and an Official Caution for allegedly breaching the EPL.  [Wauchope,  01/2018,  $15,000]

More than 2,300 tonnes of coal material escaped into a river which impacted the Blue Mountains National Park.  [Clarence, 07/2017,  $1.05M (penalty) + ~$0.5M (legal) + >$2M (clean up costs)]

A fire started in a waste material pile with poor housekeeping practices.  The EPA issued a fine for not operating in a competent manner as required by the facility’s licence conditions.  Another fine was issued when fire water which was not promptly contained and polluted the Cooks River.  [Chullora, 2/2017,  $15,000 +  $15,000]


The wastewater treatment plant (WTP) from a sugary drink manufacturer had a strong odour which was noticed on an adjacent site. The WTP developed the odour after liquid sugar spilled while a tanker was filling an on site tank and then flowed into the WTP. [Wetherill Park, 3/2019, $15,000]


Dust from an excavator working on a windy day blew off a skip bin operator's site. The EPA had previously warned the site that high winds were predicted and operations should be halted if dust could not be managed. Dust suppression controls were used but were ineffective. Trucks were also moving in and out of the site outside the licensed operating hours and potentially generating noise which impacts on neighbors. [Strathfield, 3/2019, $30,000]

A power station vacuum truck deposited dry ash in high winds, which created excess dust over a sustained period. This followed on from a Penalty Notice for a similar offence in 2017. [Lake Macquarie, 3/2019, $15,000]

A livestock feed mill spilled product onto the roof of the mill without cleaning it up. The spilled feed was a dust source and the site had already received an Official Caution for dust emissions. The penalty was for breaching the licence requirement to carrying out activities competently and maintaining all equipment such as the dust collection system.  [Leeton, 6/2018,  $15,000]

A paving contractor created excessive dust which blew onto cars and residences while applying lime to road works.  The EPA found weather conditions had not been properly assessed and dust control equipment was not fitted.  [Port Macquarie, 4/2018, $8000]

A tipper truck was transporting waste with a shade cloth cover which did not fully cover the tray.  The shade cloth was used in place of the original tarpaulin and was not containing the dust in the load.  [Sydney Olympic Park, 1/2018,  $750]

A witness photographed dust from a coal mine blowing across a public road and reported it to the EPA.  The EPA noted unsealed mine haul roads as a significant source of dust emissions, with wheel generated dust from heavy machinery the biggest source of fine dust particles on most mine sites.  [Hunter Valley, 01/2018,  $15,000]

Dangerous Goods

A truck was carrying drums of flammable liquid that were not stowed behind rigid sides (as required by the ADG).  The truck was not carrying transport or emergency documentation, Emergency Information Holders or a fire extinguisher. [Newcastle, 3/2019, $8,000]

A quarry had poor dust emission controls, storage of waste, diesel, oil and waste oils.  [Scone, 7/2018, $15,000 x 3]

A landscape gardener applied pesticides without a valid pesticides user accreditation or records.  [Lismore, 8/2017, $400]

A small amount of diesel leaked from a bund valve which was buried in soil at a mine blasting facility. It was likely that other spills had occurred as a result of the valve being buried. The EPA officers also noted poor chemical storage and inadequate stormwater diversions.  [Mount Thorley, 06/2017, $15,000]


A recycling plant had a fire in a waste stockpile which was extinguished by Fire & Resucue. The Pollution Incident Response Management Plan was implemented but the EPA were not notified. Smoke from the fire caused air pollution which the EPA was not able to assess without immediate notification.  [Somersby, 5/2018, $8,000]

A demolition company failed to report the transport of asbestos.  While the company had evidence of the correct disposal, it had not registered it on the EPA online WasteLocate system prior to transporting nearly 3 tonnes of asbestos. Transporters of more than 100kg or 10 square metres of asbestos are required to provide the EPA with the address of the site where the asbestos waste was generated, and where it is proposed the waste will be transported.  [Newcastle, 1/2018,  $1500]

A faulty valve resulted in a leak of around 680kg of liquid ammonia, which was contained within a plant room.  The ammonia warning system was not operational at the time the leak occurred.  While there was no harm caused to the community or the environment, the EPA issued a fine for not maintaining the plant in a proper and efficient condition, as required by the environment protection licence.  An Official Caution was also issued for failing to notify key agencies in accordance with its Pollution Incident Response Management Plan.  [Ingleburn, 12/2017,  $15,000]

Information taken from NSW EPA media releases.