Woolgoolga compliance inspections

As part of the Pesticides Compliance Priority Program, the EPA is focussed on intensive horticulture in the Hearnes Lake catchment near Woolgoolga on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

Water quality within Hearnes Lake and its catchment is known to be impacted by horticultural land use practice.

The EPA inspected 40 horticultural operations in the Woolgoolga area during 2021 – 23. Following the inspections, the EPA conducted 21 investigations resulting in 15 Penalty Notices, 7 Official Cautions and 8 Formal Warnings and 14 Advisory letters issued for water pollution and pesticide offences.

The EPA also issued 14 Prevention and 6 Clean-up Notices to farmers with directions to cease wastewater discharge to the environment by installing wastewater capture and on-site reuse or irrigation systems. The notices also required the upgrade of pesticide storage areas and removal of waste products to reduce environmental and human health risks.

Follow up inspections have found a high level of compliance with prevention and clean-up notices, with the outcome that the majority of farms have now installed wastewater capture and irrigation systems, upgraded or installed new pesticides storage enclosures, and engaged in better waste management practices on farm.

The EPA also conducted water quality monitoring in the Hearnes Lake catchment and identified pesticides in waters downstream of horticultural operations. The EPA is currently reviewing this data and will provide more detailed information on conclusion of this review.

The EPA has engaged with government and non-government stakeholders to improve grower awareness of compliance and environmental issues. This includes working with Local Land Services to develop contemporary industry guidance material and attending field days and grower meetings to promote best practice and compliance with pesticides laws.

Further water quality monitoring, compliance work, and stakeholder engagement is planned in 2023.