The NSW Sugar Milling Co-Operative has been fined $15,000 over a toxic discharge into the Richmond River from the Broadwater mill in September, 10 months after being cautioned for a similar incident at the company’s Harwood mill.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) says the company system’s had failed to prevent an uncontrolled discharge from the Broadwater mill of around 1,000 litres of caustic solution into the river on 8 September, during an evaporator cleaning operation.
EPA’s north coast manager Brett Nudd said that while the discharge into thew river had no immediately identifiable environmental impacts, it was ‘a disappointing result’ given the EPA’s Official Caution over the Harwood incident in November, 2014.
Mr Nudd said that immediately following the incident, the co-op submitted an incident report ‘confirming that a number of critical monitoring and control systems had either not been in place or were incorrectly implemented’.
‘Despite the company’s commitment to improved system management and operator training following the first incident, it failed to ensure appropriate controls were implemented across its three premises resulting in the most recent incident,’ he said.
‘This re-occurrence prompted the EPA to issue the penalty notice to NSW Sugar Milling Co-Operative for failure to comply with a condition of its Environment Protection Licence which requires “all plant and equipment at the premises to be maintained and operated in a proper and efficient condition and manner”.
‘NSW Sugar Milling has advised the EPA that it has committed to a review of its maintenance and control procedures and improved staff training to ensure that there are no further recurrences in the future.
‘The EPA will be closely monitoring the company’s performance to assess the effectiveness of these revised procedures.’
Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.
Mr Nudd said the EPA must also take a range of factors into account ‘before delivering a proportionate regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, whether or not there are any real or potential health impacts, if the action of the offender was deliberate, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes’.
For more information about the EPA’s compliance policy visit http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.