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Sydney Water’s fine of $15,000 for polluting Woolooware Bay under fire

Pollution anger: Woolooware Bay oyster farmers Keith Duggan (left), Bob Hill and David Barker, whose leases were temporarily closed after the sewage discharge. Picture: Chris LaneUPDATE
Nanjing Night Net

Anoyster farmer has hit out at the$15,000 fine imposed on Sydney Water for discharging five million litres of raw sewage into Woolooware Bay.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) penalty followed an investigation of the incidenton August 14 last year, which occurred afterthe Cronulla Sewage Pumping Station was hit by a power blackout.

David Barker, the operator ofEndeavour Oysters and Wetland Oysters, which had to stop harvesting forseveral weeks,said the fine was“hardly a slap on the wrist given the extent of the pollution”.

“We will continue to pursue our claims for damages we suffered,” he said.

“I hope Sydney Water can give an assurance the same thing won’t happen again.”

Environment Minister and Cronulla MP Mark Speakman did not comment on the size of the fine, butwelcomedSydney Water’s decision tospend$4.5 million upgrading the pumping station.

Mr Speakman, who requested a review of procedures at the time,saidimprovements wouldinclude an upgrade of the high voltage electrical equipment andpumping units to allow for a backup generator to be rapidly connected during a power outage.

Sydney Water would alsoamendresponse procedures.

EARLIER

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has fined Sydney Water $15,000for polluting Woolooware Bay with raw sewage.

Five million litres of raw sewage was discharged into Woolooware Bay when the Cronulla Sewage Pumping Station lost power on August 14 last year.

EPA acting director metropolitan Greg Sheehy said the discharge impacted Woolooware Bay and local oyster leases.

“The EPA acknowledges that the total power failure was outside of Sydney Water’s control,” he said.

“Flash flood”: Oyster farmer David Barker next to the canal through which sewage flowed into Woolooware Bay. Picture: Chris Lane

“The outage resulted in the failure of both the pumping station’s power supplies.

“However the EPA is concerned by Sydney Water’s slow response to the incident.

“Despite advanced warning that an overflow was likely, Sydney Water staff were not on site until nearly four hours after the incident started.

“Sydney Water did, however, arrange for a large generator to be connected to the pumping station to stop the overflow after two hours.

“Sydney Water did not begin clean-up operations until the following day – 20 hours after they received the advanced warning.”

Bay polluted: Environment Protection Authority officers inspect Woolooware Bay following discharge of raw sewage during prolonged power blackout.Picture John Veage

Mr Sheehy sad the sewage pumping station’s environment protection licence requiredSydney Water to use all practicable measures to minimise the impact of any sewage overflow on the environment and public health.

The EPA haddetermined Sydney Water did not comply with this licence condition and issued a penalty notice for $15,000.

“The EPA understands Sydney Water is upgrading the pumping station to more rapidly connect one of its backup generators if required,” he said.

“This work is due to be completed mid-2016.

“Once the upgrade is complete, the EPA expects there to be no further overflows from this pumping station.”

Mr Sheehy said penalty notices were just one of a number of tools the EPA coulduse to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.

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