QUEANBEYAN City Council has abandoned an attempt to prosecute a Googong contractor following a containment dam spill at the local construction site on Australia Day last year that saw tens of thousands of litres of muddy silt and sediment pour into the Queanbeyan River.
Earthmoving firm Cleary Bros were the new township's principal civil contractor at the time of the downpour, when up to 80 millimetres of rain fell in under two hours, forcing the containment wall of the site's sediment dam to breach and spill down the catchment into the Queanbeyan River.
Legal advice provided to Council since the spill said Council would have difficulty proving Cleary Brothers caused the spill due to the severe nature of the storm, which exceeded the 1-in-100 year storm threshold.
A report into the matter written by general manager Gary Chapman and sustainability manager Mike Thompson went before councillors at the most recent ordinary meeting of Council late last month.
It noted that Council would have difficulty proving fault for the spill in a court room.
"The Council's solicitors have advised that the magnitude of the storm means that Council would have difficulty proving that Cleary Brothers caused the pollution incident," the report said.
"That difficulty meant that there was a significant risk that any prosecution brought against Cleary Bros would have been unsuccessful. In addition, the costs of bringing prosecution proceedings would have been substantial."
Local Landcare volunteers and river-front residents at Wickerslack Lane were furious with the dam breach following the spill, and lodged a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year after water tests revealed a phosphorus spike up in the River up to seven times higher than the normal level. A number of Wickerslack Lane residents also voiced concerns to The Queanbeyan Age at the time of the spill and said they were worried about the risk of future pollution to the River as construction of the new town progressed upstream.
However Council general manager Gary Chapman said Council has since worked closely with Googong Township Pty Limited (GTPL) to introduce more secure erosion controls at the site. GTPL has since spent $230,000 on clean-up costs and upgrading erosion protections, including enlarging its new sediment dam and constructing a new spillway.
Mr Chapman said Council engineering staff had been regularly inspecting erosion protection measures at Googong since the spill, and that Council had created a new Environmental Compliance Officer's position to help manage and prevent erosion issues at building sites into the future.