Two ACT environmental groups will receive a share of $200,000 from a petrol company that was forced to pay up after nearly 80,000 litres of petrol leaked from a corroded underground tank at a service station in West Belconnen.
Ampol Petroleum Pty Ltd has been compelled to contribute to the Ginninderry Conservation Trust and Ginninderra Catchment Group as part of an enforceable undertaking issued by the ACT's Environment Protection Authority.
The conservation trust will receive $150,000 to fund a riparian education and training program and a farm dam restoration project.
The Ginninderra Catchment Group will receive $50,000 over two years to fund community engagement work.
Ginninderry Conservation Trust chief executive Dr Jason Cummings said the money would support an eDNA trial to monitor the wildlife in the conservation area by measuring DNA in water samples.
"We're going to be able to put a lot more effort into monitoring our aquatic and riparian ecosystems around the corridor. So we'll be able to extend what we would have naturally done to develop, to invest in some innovative techniques," Dr Cummings said.
Dr Cummings said the results of the funding would not be seen for six to 12 months after the funded projects began..
"It's a strange position for us, for us to be the beneficiary of this bad luck or bad performance. You know how hard it is to raise money in the environment sector, it's some ways a bonus for what we want to do," he said.
"But you would much prefer the environment wasn't polluted in the first place."
Between December 2019 and February 2020, an estimated 79,900 litres of Vortex 98 petrol was released from a corroded underground tank at the Caltex petrol station on Hardwick Crescent, Holt.
More than 23,000 litres of petrol and more than 143,000 litres of contaminated ground water were recovered by July 31 last year.
A site audit has since cleared the site for continued use as a service station, with a long-term remediation strategy now in place. Ampol has also committed to improving its procedures to avoid future leaks.
"Ampol regrets the occurrence of the incident and acknowledges the EPA's legitimate concerns in relation to the incident," the enforceable undertaking said.
Environment Protection Authority chief executive Narelle Sargent said enforceable undertakings were an alternative to prosecution, which required outcomes to have a direct benefit to the environment and community.
"Enforceable undertakings are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, orders, infringements and prosecutions," Ms Sargent said.
"The EPA must also take a range of factors into account before delivering a proportionate regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, whether or not there are any real or potential health impacts, if the action of the offender was deliberate, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes."
A spokesman for Ampol said the company was extremely disappointed about the incident at the service station, which was run by a former franchisee.
"Upon becoming aware of the incident, Ampol took immediate action to recover product and to mitigate environmental impacts. We continue to work with the EPA and an independent environmental auditor to deliver ongoing remediation works," the spokesman said.
"We are also in the process of implementing a range of actions designed to continuously improve the management or environmental risks across our network."
Better Regulation Minister Tara Cheyne said the outcome should remind businesses environmental incidents have consequences that come at a significant cost and it made good business sense to prevent them.
"The spill and negative environmental impacts were undoubtedly disappointing. This enforceable undertaking sees Ampol contributing a significant amount of funding to projects directly benefiting the local catchment and community," Ms Cheyne said.
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