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DIC Australia fined over wastewater event

Ink manufacturer DIC Australia who was found responsible for polluting a Western Sydney river with purple dye will pay $88,000 towards environmental and clean-up programs and the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) costs of investigating the incident.

The payment is part of an Enforceable Undertaking agreed with the EPA.

In April 2020, DIC Australia Pty Ltd started to produce a purple batch of dye at its factory in Auburn NSW.

When water containing the purple dye later entered the site’s stormwater system unseen, DIC Australia failed to detect and remove it. The water containing purple dye then overflowed into an outlet pipe running directly to Duck River.

Pumps in the site’s stormwater retention pit were also turned on, which discharged more water containing purple dye into the river.

EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Steve Beaman said the incident was reported by concerned members of the public who noticed Duck River had turned a deep shade of purple on 11 June 2020.

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“Duck River is a southern tributary of the Parramatta River,” Beaman said. “This incident had the potential to cause harm to the animals and plants living in Duck River, and the wider catchment. Thankfully on this occasion no actual harm was observed, and the purple dye dissipated within a few days.”

Beaman said DIC Australia should have protected the local waterway by removing the contaminated water from their stormwater system to ensure it didn’t reach the river.

As part of the Enforceable Undertaking, DIC Australia will train all staff about their environmental obligations, engage an independent expert to audit the site’s stormwater and liquid waste management systems and then implement the expert’s recommendations.

The company will also pay $5,000 to Clean Up Australia and $25,000 to the NSW Environmental Trust for general environmental work. DIC Australia must also pay $58,000 to the EPA for the legal and investigation costs it incurred in relation to the incident.

“All businesses must ensure that they have the right plans in place to avoid pollution, which can cause harm to communities and the environment, as well as cost them in fines,” Beaman said. “Preventing these types of incidents not only protects the environment but makes good business sense.”

Enforceable Undertakings are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance. They are enforceable by the Land and Environment Court.

DIC Australia also complied with a clean-up notice issued by the EPA directing it to clean the stormwater pits at the site to prevent further purple dye reaching the river