Newcastle Council fined for incident at Summerhill Waste Management Facility

Newcastle Council has copped fine over an incident at the Summerhill Waste Management Facility.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fined City of Newcastle $15,000 for allegedly failing to maintain an alarm on its leachate storage system at the facility in January 2021. The EPA said this ultimately led to an alleged discharge of waste water, or leachate, into a local waterway, which runs to nearby Wentworth Creek.

Leachate is the liquid present in waste, or generated from rain or other water filtering through waste, and is usually a product of landfills.

It’s not the first time the EPA  has been in contact with Council, since 2018 Council has received two official cautions and been prosecuted for incidents involving leachate discharges at the Summerhill facility.

$15,000 is the largest fine the EPA can issue under its legislation.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations Adam Gilligan said the incident happened when the sensor alarm system in a leachate storage tank failed, allowing the tank to overflow.

“Leachate can cause environmental damage if it gets into local waterways, affecting the health of plants and animals vital to aquatic ecosystems,” Adam Gilligan said.

“It’s essential that equipment put in place to detect these problems is functioning properly.”

“Council did the right thing and self-reported the incident, but this is the fourth time in as many years that the EPA has responded to leachate issues at the Summerhill facility, which is unacceptable.”

The EPA is working with Council on a number of pollution reduction programs, which are legally enforceable conditions of their licence, aimed at addressing environmental issues at the facility. 

Image credit: City of Newcastle website