The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is investigating reports of thousands of tiny plastic beads, or nurdles, washing up on Warrnambool’s Shelly Beach, and the possibility they passed through the sewage treatment system.
EPA south west region manager Carolyn Francis said officers inspected the beach and the nearby Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant on Wednesday.
Ms Francis said the source of the nurdles was yet to be identified, but if they had been discharged through the sewer system, those responsible could be prosecuted through the Water Act.
She said if Wannon Water was found to have breached the EPA licence it operates the plant under, it could face fines.
“Wannon Water runs the treatment plant under an EPA licence, and there are penalties including fines of up to $8000, or court imposed fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, should there be any breach of the licence conditions,” Ms Francis said.
The EPA is discussing clean up requirements with Wannon Water.
Wannon Water managing director Andrews Jeffers echoed earlier statements by the organisation that it had launched an investigation after thousands of nurdles were “illegally disposed of through the Warrnambool sewage treatment system”.
“We believe they entered the plant on Thursday or Friday last week, but were not noticed until early Tuesday morning because they are transparent and so tiny,” he said.
He said they had isolated the tank to prevent further contamination to the ocean, and said they had seen no further evidence of nurdles coming into the plant.