Local Government Legal

Local Government Legal prepares a regular email newsletter with legal updates on relevant court judgements and a summary and analysis of legislative changes.

July 2014 – Case law: Council prosecuted for failure to notify of a pollution incident

The case of Environment Protection Authority v Forbes Shire Council [2014] NSWLEC 26 (Pain J) is the first prosecution following amendments to the notification regime in Pt 5.7 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Immediate notification is now required of a pollution incident to several authorities (see our Newsletter dated April 2013). In this case the Court has now stated that the elements of this offence include (broadly), firstly, that a pollution incident occurred, secondly, awareness that the pollution incident caused or might cause material harm to the environment as defined in s 147 (a subjective awareness as found in Environment Protection Authority v Bulga Coal Management Pty Ltd [2014] NSWLEC 5 at [81]-[95]), and thirdly, failure to immediately notify certain authorities with relevant information defined in s 150.

Forbes Shire Council was convicted of the offences of polluting waters and failing to immediately notify the relevant authorities of the pollution incident and fined $130,000 and $35,000 respectively.

Note: This information is not to be relied upon as legal advice.

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