2001: Warringah Golf Course 10,000 Dead Fish (Chemical: Azinphos Methyl)

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Pesticide Spill To Cost Sydney Golf Club $600,000

Illawarra Mercury Wednesday October 1, 2003

By MELISSA JENKINS

A SYDNEY golf club was yesterday ordered to pay $600,000 for its role in an environmental disaster that killed more than 10,000 fish, as well as numerous ducks and other wildlife.

Justice Robert Talbot imposed a $250,000 fine on Warringah Golf Club, at North Manly, over a pesticide spill that poisoned the fauna in the Manly Lagoon in February 2001.

It is the equal highest fine for environmental damage ever ordered in NSW.

On top of the fine, Justice Talbot ordered the club to pay the Environment Protection Authority’s legal bill and clean-up costs, lifting the total penalty to around $600,000.

A greenkeeper was fined and sentenced to 250 hours community service earlier this year on charges stemming from the incident.

He hosed the toxic pesticide onto concrete, which spilt into a stormwater drain and into the lagoon, killing the fish, ducks and other inhabitants of the waterway.

Justice Talbot said it was important to send a powerful message to organisations to clean up their acts.

“Non-profit entities should not think they can escape significant penalties if they fail to maintain the environmental standards set by legislation solely because they provide a service to the general public,” Justice Talbot said in his judgment in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney.

He said the golf club’s actions were “heinous” and it was highly culpable for the environmental disaster.

“It was emphatically and utterly foreseeable that the conditions were totally inadequate to deal with even sporadic handling of dangerous toxic compounds in close proximity to a sensitive waterway,” Justice Talbot said.

Department of Environment and Conservation spokesman John Dengate said the punishment showed the courts and the community wanted to see the environment protected.

“It is important to understand that simple precautions could have prevented this whole incident,” Mr Dengate said.

“We think it (the penalty) sends a very strong message that if you are going to deal with chemicals, you have to have your environmental controls absolutely in place.” The maximum penalty for the offence is $1 million.

2001: … It was a catastrophic spill at Warringah Golf Club in 2001 that led to direct action from the golfing industry… The club was found guilty of criminal negligence in the Land and Environment Court after a pesticide spill killed more than 10,000 fish in Brookvale Creek and Manly Lagoon. Poisonous chemicals, including the pesticide Gusathion, were frequently handled and mixed on a concrete slab in the greenkeepers’ workshop area adjacent to stormwater pits that led to the creek. The slab was not surrounded by a bund or any other protective devices. The court found that the leak and the harm caused were foreseeable, labelling it an “accident waiting to happen”. The club was fined a NSW record of $250,000, ordered to pay Manly and Warringah Council’s clean-up costs and carry out preventative works.