A dairy company has been fined $7773 by Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) for allowing around 200 litres of cream to discharge from their Colac site and enter the stormwater system, impacting on the environment and aquatic life.
On 24 February 2017, Regal Cream Products Pty Ltd, which trades as Bulla Dairy Foods operating on Connor St, advised EPA that cream had entered the Armstrong Street stormwater drain and was heading towards Lake Colac.
The cream had mixed with stormwater and created a much larger volume of contaminated material, estimated to be up to 30,000 litres.
EPA South West Manager, Carolyn Francis said EPA used its drone to help to establish the extent of the spill and whether it had reached the lake as the access to the foreshore area was limited due to thick vegetation growth.
“EPA was able to see through the live feed that the contaminated water stopped approximately 10 metres from the receded water level in the lake and that there was no evidence of the spill impacting on the lake’s water,” she said.
“However EPA officers did observe several small fish gasping at the surface of the wastewater in the stormwater drain leading toward the lake.”
“EPA’s investigation found the spill was caused at the company’s Connor Street site after a valve within a bund where the cream was contained opened. The valve drain pipe was connected via an unknown cross connection to the stormwater system, causing the cream to discharge offsite.”
Ms Francis said under the instruction of EPA, the duty holder initiated immediate clean up, arranged for the flushing of the stormwater system and have since sealed the unknown connection to stormwater so future discharges from this connection cannot happen again.
“Due to the prompt action of the duty holder, they quickly initiated clean up of the spill, preventing it from entering Lake Colac and averting significant environmental impact. A 12,000 litre eductor truck was used to remove the contaminated water before it reached the lake.”
“Water samples taken as part of EPA’s investigation found that there were very high levels of biological oxygen demand (BOD) which indicates organic material in the water.
“The fatty acids contained in dairy products like milk or cream can cause a serious environmental hazard when spilt into a waterway as they can remove the oxygen from the water that is essential for the survival of fish and other aquatic life.”
EPA issued Regal Cream Products with the $7773 Penalty Infringement Notice for causing an environmental hazard, a breach under s27A(1)(c) of the Environment Protection Act 1970.
“The consequences of not ensuring that you know where your waste discharges can have a significant impact on the environment and our waterways. Duty holders should regular audit their facilities to ensure that there are no unknown connections to the stormwater drain system,” Ms Francis said.
Ms Francis said if anyone suspected pollution, they were encouraged to call EPA’s Pollution Hotline on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).