Lithgow City Council will pay more than $540,000 after entering into an 'Enforceable Undertaking' with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to improve its environmental performance after up to 13,000 litres of highly corrosive caustic soda escaped from a sewage treatment plant last year.
Council had in March this year said they hoped to enter into the agreement in an effort to avoid prosecution.
On 28 August 2019, a storage tank fitting failed at Wallerawang Sewage Treatment Plant and caustic soda spilled into a bund and subsequently escaped into an unnamed watercourse and onto adjoining land.
The leak didn't come to the attention of the EPA until October 2019, after they received a call to their reporting line. This was when the EPA and Wallerawang Fire and Rescue NSW attended.
The leak went into an unnamed waterway that runs across a private property and also council-owned land adjacent to the STP.
The EPA says Council did not notify the EPA or implement a Pollution Incident Response Management Plan at the time of the spill.
According to the EPA. the Enforceable Undertaking requires Council to spend $417,000 to drive improvements in Council's environmental performance including additional training and staff. Council will also contribute a further $100,000 to deliver benefits to the local environment and community.
Council must also pay the EPA's legal and investigation costs totalling $26,759, with up to another $5,000 for EPA monitoring of future compliance with the EU.
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It also requires Council to publish notice of the Enforceable Undertaking in local media, including the Lithgow Mercury, Village Voice, Sydney Morning Herald and on Council's website, which they have done.
EPA Director Regional South Operations Cate Woods said the financial undertaking was substantial and would be put to good use.
"This outcome commits Lithgow City Council to making improvements to their environmental performance as well as driving environmental benefits for the community."
Through an Enforceable Undertaking, the EPA may secure outcomes such as environmental restoration measures or contributions to environmental projects. The undertaking is enforceable by the Land and Environment Court.