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City of Newcastle fined $110,000 for water pollution


City of Newcastle (CN) has been dealt a financial blow after pleading guilty to an environmental incident at the Summerhill Waste Management Facility (SWMF).

Following an appearance in the Newcastle Local Court, council was fined $110,000 and ordered to pay costs, totalling more than $60,000, for water pollution, which occurred in 2021.

The action took place after the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) prosecuted CN for two offences when leachate-impacted water overflowed into nearby Wentworth Creek.

EPA director operations David Gathercole said the violations related to the pollution of a waterway and the proper management of equipment.

“Specialised dams which capture leachate at the Summerhill facility were already overfilled and, with heavy rain, the dams then overflowed into a drainage channel connected to Wentworth Creek,” he explained.

“Additionally, leachate was also discharged from a particular valve on-site, which had not been fully closed.”

Mr Gathercole said the impacted waterways were home to aquatic life… and important recreational areas for the Newcastle community.

“This is not the first time the EPA has acted against ty of Newcastle following an incident at SWMF.

“They were convicted of a similar offence in 2019 and the community rightly expects better from their local council.

“The protection and restoration of waterways is crucial in our communities and astute water management practices at local waste facilities is integral to this goal.

“This latest fine should serve as a reminder to all operators of waste management facilities to continually monitor leachate dams to minimise the risk of overflow events and ensure that appropriate environmental controls are in place.”

The court also ordered Newcastle City Council to pay the EPA’s legal and investigation costs in excess of $60,000 and publish details of the conviction on its social media accounts.

The EPA encourages the community to report potential water pollution incidents to the Environment Line on 131 555.

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