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Routine testing by a local water authority has helped Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) track down the source of an effluent spill into the Powlett River, at Kongwak.

EPA Gippsland acting Regional Manager Zac Dornom says through testing the impact of their own activities on the river, South Gippsland Water raised their concerns with EPA after detecting raised levels of bacteria and ammonia..

“EPA officers found water in the river was opaque green and had a strong smell of manure, tracking the contamination upstream to a dairy farm,” Mr Dornom said.

“They observed dairy effluent from the milking yard running into an effluent pond which was overflowing across farmland and into a stormwater drain that fed into the Powlett River,” he said.

EPA’s own testing confirmed raised levels of bacteria and ammonia downstream from the drain, while the water upstream was clear and free of odour.

“The operator of the farm has been fined $1,983 for permitting the deposit of industrial waste at a site not licensed to receive it,” Mr Dornom said.

EPA also issued a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice requiring them to address the causes of the discharge and the duty holder has complied.

“The escape of dairy effluent into any waterway is not just a breach of environmental law, it is a threat to aquatic life in the river and a potential source of contamination on farms downstream,” Mr Dornom said.

“Any farmer who fails in their responsibility to prevent pollution on their land is not doing any favours for their neighbours or the environment and will be held accountable,” he said

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2006, the duty holder has the right to have the infringement notice reviewed or be considered by a court.

Members of the public can report pollution by calling EPA’s 24-hour hotline on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).

Reviewed 20 August 2021