THE Land and Environment Court NSW recently handed down its decision relating to pollution of waters near the landfill site on the Bucketts Way, Tinonee, in April 2012.
The court imposed a fine of $50,000 on Greater Taree City Council, which was reduced by 25 per cent for the early guilty plea, but rather than it going to the court, the fine was commuted to a local environmental project and the money will stay in the area.
Greater Taree City Council pleaded guilty to the offence in the court as leachate had entered the watercourse but in handing down his decision, Justice Sheahan noted the actual environmental harm arising from the incident was in the low range and there was a lack of any deliberate or planned failure on council's part.
The justice considered council's exemplary environmental record, the slim chance of a leak happening again, and the speed that council reported itself.
He also noted the way council was helpful to other agencies, and cleaned up the leak.
Council's acting general manager, Ron Posselt expressed remorse for the incident.
"Despite the leak coming from an underground failure and that all pollutants were subsequently removed from the watercourse, I am disappointed that the incident occurred," Mr Posselt said.
"Since this incident, a new leachate line has been installed that is not near a watercourse and extensive work has been undertaken on the site to manage leachate and ensure this does not happen again.
"Additionally, we have constructed a new leachate pond which gives additional capacity for excessive wet weather and will further reduce the risk of leachate entering the environment.
"We understand the importance of the environment to the community, and are proud of our environmental record," Mr Posselt said.
"The community support for council to introduce an environmental levy shows the dedication that both council and the community have to working together to manage and improve our environment for now and into the future."
This fine was commuted to an environmental project to improve riparian waterways around Taree.
Council has made the commitment to increase its contribution to the project voluntarily, from the $37,500 specified by the court, to $50,000 to cover project costs.
The "Taree Urban Waterways Riparian Regeneration Project" will provide important bushland regeneration works along our waterways.
Council noted that these bushland regeneration works are part of a penalty imposed on Greater Taree City Council by the Land and Environment Court after it was convicted of an offence of polluting waters, being Dennes Creek and a tributary of that creek in April 2012.
While noting the orders of the court Mr Posselt stated "I am pleased that the court saw it as appropriate to allow the fine to be invested in environmental works that will improve the riparian areas of our district which will benefit all the community as well as improving water quality."