Sydney Water has pleaded guilty to two charges placed upon the organisation following a 2013 incident at the Malabar STP in NSW.
Chief Justice Preston handed down his determination in the Land & Environment Court, whereby Sydney Water has been ordered to pay an amount of $55,000 to Randwick City Council to carry out a project to investigate the sources of pollutants entering stormwater channels that discharge to beaches in the Randwick Local Government Area.
Chief Justice Preston also ordered Sydney Water to pay an amount of $102,500 to the NSW Environmental Trust for general environmental purposes. In addition Sydney Water will pay the EPA’s legal fees.
Sydney Water was prosecuted by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for one offence of water pollution and one offence of contravening its Environment Protection Licence by failing to maintain plant and equipment in a proper and efficient condition.
The charges resulted from an incident in September 2013 when treated effluent leaked from a pipe joint at Sydney Water’s Malabar Wastewater Treatment Plant and flowed into the sea at Yellow Rock headland.
Sydney Water’s General Manager Service Delivery, Eric de Rooy, said Sydney Water fully accepted the penalty handed down today and apologised to the local community and Randwick City Council.
“We know we failed in our responsibilities to discharge wastewater in an appropriate manner,” Mr de Rooy said.
“We have never shied away from our responsibility and understand the fact that regardless of the minimal risks posed to public health or the environment, it was an unacceptable incident to have occurred.
“Sydney Water takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously, and know we have a very important role in managing, treating and disposing of wastewater throughout Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains.
“At all times we strive to provide these essential services in a manner that protects and enhances our natural and built environment.
“We are committed to sound environmental management and continually improving our environmental performance to minimise the impacts of our activities on the environment.
“We have applied the lessons learnt from this incident to our other wastewater treatment plants, which includes increased community engagement about plant activities.
“We are also investing over $100 million in reliability improvements to the Malabar treatment plant, which will include moving the pipe to another location, providing greater access for inspection and maintenance activities.
“It will also ensure that should any leak occur, it will be contained safely within the plant.”
No actual harm was caused to the environment by the leak because of the low quantity of treated effluent involved.
During and after the incident, Sydney Water tested the water at Malabar and Maroubra beaches and ocean pools, and found no indicators of contamination from the leak. Sampling showed that the leak did not result in pollution at Malabar or Maroubra Beach on those days.
Malabar Beach was closed by Randwick City Council for two days as a precautionary measure.
Throughout the incident, Sydney Water worked closely with the EPA, Beachwatch and Randwick Council to ensure the community and all stakeholders were kept fully informed.