A hazardous liquid is one that can: 

  • pollute the environment  
  • harm people’s health.  

All liquids can become hazardous when leaked or spilt. Even clean water can become a hazardous leak or spill if it washes pollutants into our waterways.    

There are ways you can prevent and manage hazardous leaks and spills.  

Where hazardous leaks and spills happen  

Hazardous leaks and spills can happen at any business that works with liquids. some of the businesses most at risk of hazardous leaks and spills include (but are not limited to): 

  • fast food restaurants using and storing cooking oil  
  • offices storing cleaning products  
  • mechanics storing new and used oils and fuel  
  • council depots using and storing paints, pesticides, oil and fuel  
  • farms using and storing fuel and agricultural chemicals  
  • food manufacturers making drinks like fruit juice and milk 
  • chemical manufacturers using and storing industrial chemicals  
  • service stations. 

How hazardous leaks and spills impact our environment  

How a leak or spill impacts our environment depends on the type of liquid.  

Leaks and spills can pollute groundwater and surface water. This can be harmful to waterways and plants and animals that depend on them. 

Groundwater and surface water pollution can also impact people’s health. For example, if hazardous liquids end up in our food or drinking water.  

Groundwater pollution

Groundwater is found below the earth’s surface. We use it for: 

  • irrigating crops  
  • drinking water for farm animals  
  • drinking water for towns  
  • recreational purposes – like swimming pools industry.   

Hazardous leaks and spills are a common cause of groundwater pollution.  

If a hazardous leak or spill pollutes groundwater, we may not be able to use it anymore.  

Surface water pollution  

Surface water gets pumped from rivers, streams and reservoirs. Most of our water supply comes from surface water. 

If a hazardous leak or spill pollutes surface water, it can make people ill.  

Learn more about protecting our waterways 

Read more about hazardous leaks and spills 

How to store and handle liquids 

Hazardous leaks and spills and the law 

Reviewed 29 June 2020