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Brownes Dairy fined AU$100k for Australian waterway milk pollution

Between 70,000 and 140,000 liters of milk poured into the waterway. (Image: Australian Department of Environment Regulation)
Between 70,000 and 140,000 liters of milk poured into the waterway. (Image: Australian Department of Environment Regulation)

Western Australia's Brownes Dairy has been fined AU$100,000 (US$94,000, €70,000) over a major spill of unprocessed milk into a waterway.

In May 2014, Brownes Dairy plead guilty to one charge, brought by the Australian Department of Environment Regulation, of causing pollution or allowing pollution.

The charge related to an incident in November 2011 when between 70,000 and 140,000 liters of milk spilled from a silo at Brownes' Brunswick plant into a storm water drainage system which flowed into a natural creek feeding the Elvira Gully, a tributary of the Brunswick River. 

Brownes Dairy reportedly spent AU$387,000 (US$364,000, €271,000) on the clean-up, which involved the removal of an estimated 36m liters of river water and milk from the affected watercourse, and to compensate those impacted. 

Returning to court yesterday for sentencing, Brownes was order to pay AU$100,000 and costs of more than AU$4,000 (US$3,800, €2,800).

Sentencing, Magistrate Kelvin Fisher said the fine was appropriate given the significant cost already incurred by Brownes. 

A faulty electric motor, which resulted in a build up of pressure within the silo, was to blame for the spill, Bunbury Magistrates Court heard.

The spill affected water oxygen levels, killing fish and other aquatic wildlife. Fish, according to reports, were seen jumping out of the polluted water and landing on patches of congealed milk on the surface.

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