Video transcript

Pollution incidents can happen anytime, anywhere. It could be small, like a leak that is easily contained or it could be big like a major spill that enters our waterways.

It's your responsibility to prevent harm from pollution and waste. If you cause a pollution incident it is also your responsibility to respond. You must take action no matter what.

In an emergency always called triple zero. Responding immediately can reduce the impacts on human health and the environment.

As well as cleaning up after the incident you must restore the areas that have been affected as far as reasonably practicable. This means you must take action to reestablish affected areas, returning them to their previous state.

Find out more about responding to a pollution incident by visiting our website

If your activity is responsible for a pollution incident, you must restore affected areas back to their original state. This is the duty to take action to respond to harm caused by pollution incidents. You will find this under section 31 of the Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act). 

You will generally be responsible for paying for the cleanup of pollution. You must also restore an area to its original state, so far as is reasonably practicable. This duty applies whether you have breached the general environmental duty or not.

EPA has produced Responding to harm caused by pollution (publication 1991) to help you understand what you need to do after a pollution incident occurs.

The principle of polluter pays

The duty to respond links to the principle of polluter pays. This principle is one of the 11 principles of the Act. So, if you’re the person responsible for generating the pollution, you need to take appropriate action. 

EPA action if I disobey this duty

We may issue a remedial notice requiring you to take steps to comply with the duty. Criminal enforcement may apply if you fail to comply with a notice.

If something has gone wrong and there’s a pollution incident you must notify us.

Reviewed 1 July 2021