Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined a Hazelwood North company almost $8000 for allowing coal-laden water to discharge from its premises into the stormwater system during September.
EPA Gippsland Manager Stephen Lansdell said an investigation into the contaminated runoff was launched following a pollution report of hydrocarbons entering the stormwater system.
“EPA officers attended Omnia Specialties (Australia) and observed no bunding in place to contain runoff from the site’s two coal stockpiles. On site, there was dark-pooling water contaminated by coal in the vicinity of the coal stockpiles that was discharging into onsite stormwater drains,” Mr Lansdell said.
“Officers noted that this coal-laden water was discharging offsite towards and into the Firmins Lane wetlands area about 500 metres to the north of the premises via a stormwater drain.”
Mr Lansdell said that because the coal-laden water was non-toxic the environmental impacts on the wetlands were considered low.
“EPA sampling showed that while suspended solids (coal) in the runoff were high entering the wetlands, they were much lower when exiting. Essentially, this shows us that the wetland was doing the job that it’s designed to do which is filter sediment,” Mr Lansdell said.
Mr Lansdell said the $7929 fine was an important reminder to all businesses to ensure that all areas where industrial products are stored are adequately bunded to prevent the products becoming a waste and causing contaminated runoff entering the stormwater system.
“The fine was handed down by EPA to the company because of poor management processes at this large industrial facility. Quite simply, if there had been adequate bunding in place, Omnia Specialties would have avoided the fine,” Mr Lansdell said.
Mr Lansdell said the company had engaged an EPA-licensed company to conduct a clean-up of the contamination on site at the time and installed temporary controls to prevent further runoff entering the environment.
“EPA has issued Omnia Specialties with a draft notice that requires the company to install long-term onsite bunding and stormwater controls to prevent this situation from happening again,” Mr Lansdell said.
Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2008, the company has the right to have the decision to issue the infringement notice reviewed or alternatively to have the matter heard and determined by a court.
Guidelines around bunding are available on EPA’s website: http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/our-work/publications/publication/2015/october/347-1
Members of the public can report pollution of the environment to the 24-hour EPA pollution hotline, by calling 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC). There’s more information at www.epa.vic.gov.au/get-involved/report-pollution