Port Kembla Copper issued with a penalty notice for $15,000
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued a penalty notice of $15,000 to Port Kembla Copper (PKC) after the company reported seven instances in November and December 2014 where selenium concentrations discharged from its wastewater treatment plant exceeded its licence limits.
EPA Director Metropolitan Giselle Howard said the selenium concentrations in water samples collected from the main drain of the wastewater treatment plant were above the company's licence limit of 0.05 milligrams per litre (mg/L) on seven occasions between 28 November and 11 December 2014.
PKC reported these exceedances to the EPA following regular water quality testing at the premises in accordance with licence requirements. The levels of selenium in the main drain discharge varied from 0.06mg/L to 0.13mg/L. There was no reported harm to the environment from these discharges.
"The treated wastewater is discharged into a stormwater drain, which eventually flows into the Port Kembla outer harbour," said Ms Howard.
"PKC advised that the incident occurred as a result of less dilution water being applied to the treated wastewater compared to that previously used to achieve compliance with its Environment Protection Licence limit.
"This is not the first time the EPA has taken regulatory action against PKC for breaching its concentration limits. The EPA issued a formal warning to the company in August 2014 for previous exceedances of its concentration limits.
"The EPA has also advised PKC that it must ensure its wastewater treatment plant is maintained and operated in a proper and efficient manner and that long-term management measures are put in place to manage stormwater from the site.
"Licensees have a responsibility to ensure they are meeting the strict conditions that are on their licences to prevent incidents such as this. The limits are set to prevent harm to the environment and human health in both the short term and the long term."
PKC has developed and is implementing a Selenium Action Plan and Stormwater Master Plan for the management of stormwater at the site. The site continues to be regulated by the EPA under an Environment Protection Licence.
Penalty notices are just 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.
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 regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.
Source: NSW EPA
What we say:
With previous regulatory action taken against the company and formal warnings given, it is disappointing to see that there were exceedences more than double the licence limits being recorded.
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