From the Environmental Protection Authority website:

The definition of ‘water pollution’ in the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) sets out general and specific circumstances that constitute pollution. At its broadest, water pollution means introducing any matter into waters which changes the physical, chemical or biological condition of the water. It also includes placing any matter where it might fall, descend, be washed, be blown or percolates into any waters (e.g. soil which might washed into a waterway).

It is an offence under section 120 of the POEO Act to pollute waters.

The definition of what constitutes pollution is provided in the Protection of the Environment Operations (general) Regulation 2009 Schedule 5, which can be read in full here:

but to summarise:

(o) matter that has a pH value of less than 6.5 or more than 8.5,

(w) matter that contains any nitrogen, sulphur, phenolic or phosphorus compound,

Both of which apply to detergent.

Also any substance as listed in Schedule 10 of the Sydney Water Act 1994 is classed as a pollutant. Take your pick, there are several which apply depending on your detergent.

To quote the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997:

”Section 120 Prohibition of pollution of waters

(1) A person who pollutes any waters is guilty of an offence.

Note. An offence against subsection (1) committed by a corporation is an offence attracting special executive liability for a director or other person involved in the management of the corporation—see section 169.

(2) In this section:

pollute waters includes cause or permit any waters to be polluted. (this includes waterways and stormwater drains)”


The EPA advises:

The EPA and Council would issue a penalty infringement notice. If the pollution caused any harm to persons or marine life then heavier fines would apply depending on the circumstances.

Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009, Schedule 6 Penalty notice offences, provides that an individual can be fined $4,000.00. A corporation which allows the pollution (LRC) can be fined between $8,000 – $15,000.