A fuel tanker driver whose mistake on the job led to over 11,000 litres of diesel fuel spilling and polluting Mittagong Creek has copped a fine of almost $20,000.
Christopher Geoffrey Routledge, now 54, had worked for Albion Park Rail-based fuel supply company Park for almost two months at the time of the incident in June 2022, which left waters of the creek toxic to aquatic life.
Agreed facts tendered to the Land and Environment Court say that on the night of June 3 that year, Routledge arrived at Bowral service station Highland Fuels on Bong Bong Street to deliver an order of various fuels, including diesel.
He connected hoses between the fuel tanker, the pump and an above-ground storage tank, and began to unload diesel before walking away.
But Routledge had not properly connected the hose to the pump, causing 11,260 to 11,760 litres of diesel to spill out on the ground for about 10 minutes until he returned and discovered what was happening.
The diesel had spilled onto a grassed and gravelled area and into a stormwater drain, which discharged into Mittagong Creek.
An Environment Protection Authority inspection of Mittagong Creek found an unbroken sheen on the water surface with an overpowering smell 500 metres downstream of the spill.
A week after the spill the EPA issued a clean-up notice to Park; that same day, the company fired Routledge.
A senior river scientist found the waters downstream of the spill were toxic to aquatic life, and the harm to the environment extended for one kilometre.
Another expert concluded the spill had degraded the land at the rear of the service station and resulted in a risk to humans, animals and the environment which was "not trivial".
The same expert found the diesel had a severe impact on Mittagong Creek until late June 2022 but was diluted by heavy rain in early July; had this not happened, the impact would have persisted much longer.
Routledge pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court to charges of polluting water and polluting land.
Justice Sandra Duggan noted he took full responsibility for the offences and accepted he was genuinely remorseful for what happened.
Justice Duggan took into account Routledge's loss of employment as a form of punishment, as well as his early pleas of guilty.
She said he had no environmental offences on his record and the offending was not deliberate.
Justice Duggan also noted Routledge had limited means to pay a large fine so cut the penalties by 70 per cent.
She fined him $11,250 on the pollution of water charge and $8437.50 for polluting land.
Routledge was also convicted and ordered to pay the EPA's legal and prosecution costs.