The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has commenced proceedings in the Land and Environment Court to prosecute Cleanaway Equipment Services Pty Ltd for three offences, from two spill incidents at its premises in Queanbeyan, in May 2020.
The EPA alleges that on 14 May 2020, the solvent Vivasol 2046 leaked from the Queanbeyan premises into the stormwater system and flowed into the Molonglo River, and Cleanaway took approximately five hours to report the incident to the EPA.
Cleanaway is charged with one offence of water pollution and additionally for failing to immediately notify the EPA of a pollution incident.
The second alleged water pollution offence occurred on 15 May 2020 when water containing Vivasol 2046 was discharged from the premises and again entered the stormwater system, resulting in a charge of water pollution.
The maximum penalty for a water pollution offence is $1 million and for an offence of failing to notify the EPA of a pollution incident is $2 million.
EPA Chief Executive Officer Tracy Mackey said all NSW businesses needed to get the message that if their site impacted the environment, they could expect to be held to account.
“Our NSW community deserves clean waterways that aren’t polluted by careless or negligent actions,” Ms Mackey said.
“I am concerned that it took Cleanaway five hours to notify us, putting the Molonglo River and dependent ecosystem, plants and animals relying on the river, at further risk.”
The pollution incidents were the catalyst for a series of unannounced simultaneous inspections of Cleanaway facilities at 27 locations by over 50 EPA officers on in June 2020.
These inspections resulted in three Cleanaway subsidiaries being fined $31,500 for alleged waste storage and record keeping offences at Rutherford, Wetherill Park and Windsor. The EPA has also previously taken regulatory action against Cleanaway for poor storage of waste at their Rutherford and Wetherill Park premises.