NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) director of regulatory operations Giselle Howard said Sydney Water failed to appropriately inspect and maintain the sewer line that caused approximately 504,000 litres of raw sewage to be discharged from a leak on November 6, 2019 into Orphan School Creek.
The EPA issued a $15,000 penalty notice to Sydney Water for the alleged water pollution caused by the incident at the sewage pumping station in Fairfield. The EPA has previously issued fines of $195,000 to Sydney Water for allegedly failing to adequately respond to dry weather sewage overflows from its sewerage systems from November 2017 to September 2018.
"Untreated sewage can pose a risk to human health and have significant environmental impacts on waterways and land," Ms Howard said.
"It is an offence under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 to pollute waterways. The sewage pollution from this incident was allegedly caused by Sydney Water's inadequate management of its sewer assets."
The EPA, who are currently prosecuting Sydney Water for a number of other alleged sewage related overflow incidents in the Sydney area, have added special conditions to each of Sydney Water's 23 sewage treatment system environment protection licences, which requires an independent assessment of Sydney Water's overarching management and operational framework for responding to dry weather sewage overflows. Sydney Water is implementing recommendations to improve its clean-up response.
A Sydney Water spokesperson said they apologised for the overflow incident at Fairfield in November 2019.
"Sydney Water is committed to protecting the environment and public health and will spend more than $1 billion dollars over the next four years to support and improve its wastewater network. We also will continue to work closely with the EPA to make further improvements," the spokesperson said.
"Sydney Water continues to provide safe and reliable wastewater services to its customers following a challenging period of unusually dry weather brought on by the recent drought.
"Prolonged hot and dry weather cause ground movement that puts additional pressure on pipes, resulting in increased breaks and leaks. These conditions also increase tree root intrusions into pipes as they seek water, leading to blockages."