Sydney Water has been fined $15,000 by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for its slow response to a raw sewage pollution incident.

Five million litres of raw sewage was discharged into Woolooware Bay when Sydney Water’s Cronulla Sewage Pumping Station lost power in August 2015.

EPA Acting Director Metropolitan, Greg Sheehy, said the discharge impacted Woolooware Bay and local oyster leases.

“The EPA acknowledges that the total power failure was outside of Sydney Water’s control. The outage resulted in the failure of both the pumping station’s power supplies,” Mr Sheehy said.

“However the EPA is concerned by Sydney Water’s slow response to the incident. Despite advanced warning that an overflow was likely, Sydney Water staff were not on site until nearly four hours after the incident started.

“Sydney Water did, however, arrange for a large generator to be connected to the pumping station to stop the overflow after two hours.”

“Sydney Water did not begin clean-up operations until the following day – 20 hours after they received the advanced warning.”

The Cronulla Sewage Pumping Station’s Environment Protection Licence requires Sydney Water to use all practicable measures to minimise the impact of any sewage overflow on the environment and public health.

Following an investigation, the EPA has determined that Sydney Water did not comply with this licence condition and has issued a penalty notice for $15,000.

Mr Sheehy said the EPA understands Sydney Water is upgrading the pumping station to more rapidly connect one of its backup generators if required, with this work due to be completed in mid-2016.

“Once the upgrade is complete, the EPA expects there to be no further overflows from this pumping station,” Mr Sheehy said.

Jessica Dickers

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