Hosing herbicide into stormwater drain leads to $15K fine

Thursday, 15 April, 2021

Hosing herbicide into stormwater drain leads to $15K fine

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Goulburn company Wolfcon Pty Ltd for polluting waters after a herbicide was allegedly washed into a stormwater drain.

Wolfcon did not notify emergency services authorities of the alleged spill of the herbicide Paraquat from a chemical spray truck on 30 November 2020. The company allegedly spent four hours hosing the spilt herbicide into the stormwater because they were concerned for their workers’ safety.

The EPA launched an investigation after a member of the public reported the spill to the EPA’s 24-hour Environment Line the following day. EPA officers detected the herbicide in the Mulwaree River, 2.3 kilometres downstream from the site of the spill on 2 December 2020. EPA officers also discovered puddles of blue liquid on the ground at the premises, with testing revealing high concentrations of Paraquat in the puddles.

EPA Director of Regulatory Operations Cate Woods said the company’s actions resulted in natural waterways being polluted, with the Paraquat solution washed from the premises to the Mulwaree River via the stormwater system.

“The lesson here is do not try to clean up chemical spills yourself. The correct procedure is to call triple zero for expert assistance and to also report the spill to the EPA. That is the best way to ensure employee safety and to make sure spills are contained and any damage to the environment is minimised,” Woods said.

Woods added that Wolfcon complied with clean-up directions once the EPA contacted them.

Herbicides washed into waterways could harm plant and aquatic life; the toxic substances could also pose a potential risk to pets such as dogs being walked along the river. The EPA has reminded small industries and businesses that to protect local waterways, only clean rainwater should enter stormwater drains.

Best practice stormwater management for businesses includes bunding for chemical storage to contain any potential spills and the allocation of dedicated washdown areas that don’t flow into stormwater drains. Businesses should also understand the correct emergency response to spills.

Penalty notices are among the many tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance; these include formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and direction and prosecutions. In this case the EPA issued a penalty notice.

Image credit: NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA)

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