Elf farm receives $100,000 penalty for polluting creek - Council questions Elf farm comments

As reported by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the Land and Environment Court has recently handed down a $100,000 penalty to Elf Farm Supplies Pty Ltd (Elf Farm), following successful prosecution by the EPA after Elf Farm unlawfully irrigated waste water and polluted South Creek, near Windsor, in May 2015.

Elf Farm composts waste products to produce a mushroom farming product. The EPA prosecuted Elf Farm on two counts: (1) for water pollution; and (2) for breaching a condition of its environment protection licence that requires it to carry out its operations in a competent manner.

The Land and Environment Court convicted Elf Farm of each offence and penalised the company $45,000 for the water pollution offence and $55,000 for breaching its licence with the penalties ordered to go to Hawkesbury City Council to fund South Creek riparian rehabilitation works.

The Court also ordered Elf Farm to publicise details of the offences in the Hawkesbury Gazette and the Hawkesbury Courier and to pay the EPA’s legal costs.

Hawkesbury City Council is therefore surprised at the reported comments in local media by Elf Farm Supplies relating to the source of the high ammonia levels, and their suggestion that Council’s wastewater facilities may have been responsible.

The Court Judgement clearly identifies that the testing undertaken by the EPA showed ammonia levels over 160 times the accepted water quality guidelines at the top of the creek bank.

Council’s own EPA mandated testing of its sewerage treatment plant discharges confirm that Council could not have caused the elevated ammonia levels recorded at Elf Farms discharge point in South Creek.

Background on South Creek Riparian Restoration Project

The South Creek Riparian Restoration Project began in 2001 with the aim of restoring a highly degraded riverbank to a healthy zone with strong biodiversity along South Creek. The project focuses on managing the constant weed invasion from upstream. The weeds targeted are highly invasive which put native species at risk, affecting both the biological and physical processes in the ecosystem.

Further background on Elf Farm, courtesy of the EPA

In May 2015, following heavy rain the previous month, Elf Farm pumped waste water over several days from its effluent storage dam to irrigate the surface of a paddock they owned. As the paddock area became saturated, between 19 and 21 May 2015 the waste water flowed across the paddock surface and ultimately discharged into South Creek. This occurred because Elf Farm did not administer or adhere to proper pumping and irrigation procedures.

In total, about 200,000 litres of polluted waste water was discharged.

The waste water that discharged into South Creek contained high levels of ammonia. It was a brown-black substance that formed a white foam as it cascaded down the bank and entered the Creek.

The community alerted the EPA to the incident, after observing the discharge.

While the waste water was still discharging into South Creek, EPA officers inspected the site and a scientific analysis of the discharged liquid found that it had the potential to harm aquatic organisms in South Creek.

Since the incident, Elf Farm has improved its documented procedures, increased supervision of pumping works, and introduced a formal training procedure for staff involved in any pumping practices.

For full details about the Court Judgement, visit http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/epamedia/EPAMedia17060201.htm

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