Newcastle Council has been ordered to pay $170,000 following proceedings launched by the state’s environment watchdog.
The Environment Protection Authority says the council has plead guilty in Newcastle Local Court and has been fined $110,000 over two water pollution offences at the Summerhill Waste Management Facility at Wallsend.
The offences relate to leachate – the liquid that flows through waste – flowing into nearby Wentworth Creek, following heavy rain, something which EPA Director Operations David Gathercole is being put down to improper 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.
“Additionally, leachate was also discharged from a particular valve on-site which had not been fully closed.
“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,” Mr Gathercole said.
The total coast ordered to pay includes a further $60,000 for the EPA’s legal and investigation costs.