COLIBAN Water must fund a $100,000 environmental project after it pleaded guilty to causing or permitting an environmental hazard.
Coliban Water faced Kyneton Magistrate’s Court after a burst pipeline sent sewage flowing into Kyneton’s Post Office Creek in July 2016.
Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation will use the money to run an Aboriginal Waterway Assessment of Kyneton’s Post Office Creek and nearby parts of the Campaspe River.
Environment Protection Authority Victoria executive director Damian Wells said the authority prosecuted the water company after more than one million litres of raw sewage from Kyneton escaped, due to an issue at Coliban’s Jeffrey Street pumping station.
“The pipe burst just before midnight, and it wasn’t until 9am before maintenance workers spotted the lower than usual flows into the Kyneton Water Reclamation Plant and raised the alarm,” he said.
“Coliban Water reported the spill to EPA, and environment protection officers arrived to find a constant flow of fast running sewage entering Post Office Creek.
“The creek was flowing strongly at the time, which helped clear the contamination, and Coliban Water pumped contaminated water from affected land.
“The company has since installed automatic alarms at the pumping station and the treatment plant. A pump station site management plan has also been developed.”
The magistrate sentenced the company without conviction.
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Mr Wells said despite this, the outcome showed courts took pollution seriously.
“In this case, the court has chosen to direct Coliban Water to fund a valuable local environmental project that will help government agencies and the community to benefit native vegetation and aquatic life in Post Office Creek and the Campaspe River,” he said.
“This is the first project of this nature awarded by the courts to a traditional owner group under the Environment Protection Act 1970.”
Dja Dja Wurrung chief executive Rodney Carter said the waterway assessment project would bring together traditional, ecological and scientific knowledge to benefit the environment.
“The local Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung indigenous people, EPA, Coliban Water and the North Central Catchment Management Authority can work together on this, and the field work in this project will be really valuable,” he said.
“It will give us a snapshot of the landscape from an indigenous point of view, comparing its condition today with its natural state, helping to guide things as simple as weed removal and as complex as restoring a healthy environment for native aquatic and plant life.”
The magistrate also ordered Coliban Water to publish the details of the case and pay Environment Protection Authority’s legal costs of $12,141.64.
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