Biomix to fight EPA fine

By Country News

Biomix will challenge the fine recently imposed on it by the Environment Protection Authority.

The EPA said the company had failed to meet reporting requirements on a new expansion to its groundwater monitoring network, resulting in the $8261 fine.

The case began with a routine inspection of the Stanhope facility, when the EPA was not satisfied the existing monitoring was sufficient to confirm the company was meeting the controls included in its licence.

EPA officers issued the company with a Pollution Abatement Notice requiring that the monitoring network be expanded and giving a clear deadline for reporting on groundwater results, but the company was unable to meet the deadline.

Biomix chief executive Vanessa Lenihan said the company was unable to deliver an extension submission due to a number of complications surrounding the implementation of a second groundwater bore.

“The groundwater bore that was in place on our boundary was decommissioned due to impacts from the Goulburn-Murray Water channel,” Ms Lenihan said.

“A second bore was installed to the south-west of this groundwater bore to provide background quality monitoring levels of the groundwater. EPA requested that another groundwater bore be installed close to the channel.

“We notified the EPA in December 2019 that we were delayed in installing the additional groundwater bore. We were reassured that this wasn’t a problem.

“We notified the EPA early March 2020 that we would install the groundwater bore and we would commence monitoring in July 2020, which would align with our current monitoring program. We were assured that this would be acceptable.

“The paperwork which I submitted in March 2020 contained an error in the clauses which I quoted. This was an oversight on my part.

“I did not see the email from the EPA notifying me that this was the case. Once I realised, I resubmitted the paperwork, but it was considered by the EPA as a late submission.”

EPA north-west regional manager Scott Pigdon said adequate groundwater monitoring was one of the environmental safeguards built into the company’s EPA-issued licence to operate the facility

“A case like this is disappointing because businesses have a clear responsibility to know the rules and do the right thing, and the PAN included clear instructions and a written deadline,” Dr Pigdon said.

“The facility on Two Tree Rd, Stanhope, is in irrigation farming country and farmers would be well aware of the importance of groundwater conditions to the land and the community relying on it.”

Ms Lenihan said interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in the delay.

“I acknowledge that we were late in submitting our request for extension,” she said.

“However, it was at a time where we were managing the risk of COVID-19 on our business. We were transforming our practices and processes to ensure that we could keep our staff safe while continuing to provide this essential service to the Victorian community.

“We are disappointed that the EPA have not taken a more pragmatic approach to the situation considering the real risk that COVID-19 has posed to our community.

“We will be challenging the notice which the EPA have provided.”

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2006, Biomix has the right to have the decision to issue the infringement notice reviewed or alternatively to have the matter heard and determined by a court.