THE Environment Protect Authority (EPA) has imposed a fine of $6000 on the operators of Otway Estate near Colac for polluting the environment by discharging waste water to land beyond its boundary.
EPA Victoria said it was alerted to a problem by the community in April this year and found a clear path of discharge from the boundary of Otway Estate, at Barongarook, to within metres of a neighbour’s dam.
Plants and grass in the path of the sludge were dead and odour from a pool of wastewater lying close to the neighbour’s property intensified when its surface was disturbed.
Samples detected high levels of E.coli, a bacteria associated with human and animal waste.
On investigation, the EPA found the operation’s waste water treatment plant had overflowed.
Otway Estate director Tony Xerri said the company had not been aware of when the EPA was to make a ruling on the incident and would be appealing the decision.
He said Otway Estate, which includes a winery, brewery, restaurant and function centre at Barongarook, south of Colac, had rectified the problem immediately when it became aware of it.
When the waste treatment plant had been installed, it complied with Colac Otway Shire’s regulations, he said.
The plant had been operating at less than half its capacity when the malfunction occurred, Mr Xerri said.
The company had since changed its maintenance staff and the plant was being checked more regularly.
Fellow company director Janine Rose said the company was disappointed at the lack of communication with the EPA about its decision.
EPA south-west manager Eve Graham said operators had an obligation to act responsibly and educate themselves.
“In failing to ensure the appropriate level of management of their waste water treatment plant, the environment has suffered,” Ms Graham said.
“Waste water can cause serious harm to Victoria’s native plants and animals and impact on local groundwater, and must be managed.
“Companies will be held to account for impacts on the environment and human health. There are large penalties which can and will be enforced when companies fail to take their environmental responsibility seriously.”
The EPA required the company to clean up the discharge and undertake a review of the performance of the treatment plant. The company has 28 days to pay the fine, seek an internal review or have the matter dealt with in court.