Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined Central Gippsland Region Water Corporation (Gippsland Water) $7,773 after a ruptured pipe caused raw sewage to flow into a nearby billabong and small creek in Yallourn North.
The incident happened at the company’s Yallourn North premises on Brown Coalmine Road – an open paddock – on 25 January 2017.
When EPA officers attended the site, they could smell an odour consistent with raw sewage and that a billabong contained effluent solids and was discharging into Andersons Creek.
Samples taken at the site confirmed the water was polluted with sewage. The ammonia concentrations could have been toxic to fish and aquatic life, and E.coli levels may also pose a risk to both animal and human health.
EPA Gippsland Manager, Stephen Lansdell said thankfully in this instance no direct impacts on aquatic life were observed, and Gippsland Water provided the local farmer fencing to prevent stock access to the raw sewage.
“The spill was likely occurring for some time before Gippsland Water became aware of the incident,” he said.
“The investigation found that corroded bolts caused the rupture, and that while it was repaired and reported quickly once discovered, flow monitoring devices did not detect the leak in time.
“Since the spill Gippsland Water has reviewed their monitoring procedures and detection system to consider this.
“EPA issued Gippsland Water with the $7,773 Penalty Infringement Notice for breaching the Environment Protection Act.”
Mr Lansdell said Gippsland Water had responded well and communicated with EPA and local community once the issue was discovered.
“EPA recognises Gippsland Water provide an essential service to the Gippsland community, and the sewerage system needs to be monitored and managed carefully to ensure the environment is also protected,” he said.
If anyone suspects pollution or a sewer spill they are encouraged to call EPA’s Pollution Hotline on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).