A Collingwood Porsche dealership has been ordered to pay $132,000 after its waste oil tank overflowed into a stormwater drain and out into the Yarra River.
Porsche Retail Group Australia Pty Ltd (Porsche) today pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to two offences under the Environment Protection Act – polluting a waterway and causing an environmental hazard.
Magistrate Shiva Pillai ordered Porsche pay $100,000 toward a rehabilitation project run by to Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and pay EPA’s costs of $32,568.
An Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) prosecutor told the court EPA officers spent hours manually tracing through the stormwater drainage system on January 16, 2018 to find the source of the spill after a runner noticed the oil and a strong fuel smell in the Yarra River at Abbotsford on January 16, 2018 around 6am and notified EPA.
The prosecutor said the clean-up contractors estimated the oil was flowing at 1L a minute for a minimum of 9 hours and investigators and the company were unable to determine when the overflow first began.
The oil travelled approximately 2km down Victoria St in the stormwater drain from the Collingwood site before entering the Yarra, where it was still detectable 2km downstream.
“One litre of oil can make 1 million litres of water unsafe,” the prosecutor said.
The court heard the underground storage tank for waste oil did not have a cut off valve and an apprentice had not been told not to use the tank after it was observed to be full in early January.
Magistrate Pillai did not record a conviction against Porsche because of the significant steps they had taken to ensure it couldn’t happen again and improve their overall environmental management.
“One only hopes this was picked up early into the spill stage,” he said.
“Clearly, it’s concerning there was no release valve.”
EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said EPA hoped this case would serve as a lesson to all businesses that there should always be safeguards in place when dealing with substances which can be harmful to the environment.
“In this case, a shut off valve and better communication could have avoided hundreds of litres of oil entering the Yarra River and saved Porsche significant clean up and court costs. While Porsche argued this was accidental pollution, the ecosystem suffers all the same,” she said.
“We are pleased Porsche has conducted an environmental overhaul of the Collingwood site as a result of this offending, but businesses must know, understand, and properly manage the risks from their business operations.
“EPA’s focus is on rehabilitation of affected areas and the order to pay $100,000 to the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation will help to improve water quality, revegetate the banks and investigate reintroducing native shellfish.
“EPA’s new Act, which takes effect from July 2020, puts the onus on all businesses to understand their environmental risks and work to prevent them.”