Council is responsible for enforcing environmental legislation relating to most pollution incidents for residential, rural, commercial and industrial areas under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. The NSW Environment Protection Authority is responsible for investigating major pollution incidents, and licensing significant polluters such as large industrial sites. Contact the EPA Pollution Line on 131 555. Pollution can occur in different ways, and may be a serious problem for our health and wellbeing, and that of our animals and plants.

Report a bad smell

Offensive odours can have a significant impact on health. Many odours contain irritants that can aggravate asthma or other lung conditions. However, odour complaints can be particularly complex for Council to investigate as many factors are variable, such as prevailing weather conditions and wind patterns.

To allow us to investigate, when notifying Council of an ongoing offensive odour, you will need to tell us:

  • when: dates, times and duration of the offensive odour
  • what: a description of the nature of the odour (for example, wood smoke, burnt smell, rubbish), and
  • the weather and wind direction at the times the odour causes a nuisance.

Smoke from wood heaters

Approval from Council is required before installing a solid wood heater.

If your wood heater is smoking, it might not be operating as efficiently as possible. Wood smoke pollution can harm the environment, your health and the health of your family. For tips on better wood burning visit wsroc.com.au/woodsmoke

Smoke from wood heaters is deemed 'excessive' when there is a visible plume coming from the chimney for a continuous period of at least 10 minutes and within that time the plume extends at least 10 metres from the chimney for at least 30 seconds. Council can investigate excessive smoke and issue a 'Smoke Abatement Order' in certain situations.

Backyard burning (including pile burns)

Read or download the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Pile Burning Standards.

The burning of household and garden waste in the open and in incinerators, does cause air pollution and will disturb neighbours. It is regulated by the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 to protect local and regional air quality, human health and local amenity.

This Regulation strictly prohibits the burning of:

  • paint or paint containers
  • tyres
  • solvent residues and containers
  • treated timbers and
  • coated wire.

Backyard burning must be approved (fire permit) by the relevant Fire Authority prior to ignition. The burning of cut and stacked vegetation is called a pile burn. Pile burning in areas covered by the RFS is permitted between from 1 April and 30 September each year on rural properties larger than 1 acre. Further information can be found here https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/know-your-risk/Bush-fire-hazards-and-your-property/fire-permits

A fire permit is required all year round for any fire lit in a FRNSW Fire District. Further information can found here https://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=200

Open Burning – Environmental Approval (01/04/2024 to 30/09/2024)

Read or download Penrith City Councils, Open Burring - Environmental Approval conditions Environmental Approval Pile Burn 2024

For any other enquiry relating to rural pile burns, please contact the Cumberland Zone Rural Fire Service on (02) 4734 7777.

Industrial air pollution

Some industrial premises also cause air pollution while carrying out their business activities. The release of odours, dust and other particles through poorly maintained equipment or inappropriate practices can contribute to poor air quality. If businesses are found to be contributing to local air pollution, Council may be able to take action under the provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Motor vehicles

Emissions from motor vehicle exhausts are a major contributor to particle pollution and photochemical smog in Sydney. Often excess levels of smoke indicate a vehicle is not properly tuned, or it may require a service.

If a vehicle emits visible smoke for a continuous period of at least 10 seconds it can be reported to the Environment Protection Authority Pollution Line on 131 555, or through an online form. To report a vehicle, the following information is required:

  • Registration number of the vehicle
  • Type of motor vehicle
  • Length of time in seconds that the visible emissions were observed
  • Colour and darkness, in the opinion of the observer, of the smoke and
  • Location, date and the approximate time of day that the observation was made

Report excessive noise

Noise from things like air conditioners, alarms, animals and parties is often the cause of neighbourhood disputes.

There are laws that can be used to prevent people from creating 'offensive', although no legislation specifies an exact offensive noise level. The NSW Department of Environment and Heritage website has useful information about noise pollution, including brochures.

Council has power to take action in relation to some noise pollution matters under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act). Our Environmental Health Officers can serve notices to residents and businesses, requiring them to control offensive noise.

If neighbourhood noise is a problem for you, there are several things you can do. See our report a problem page for more information.

You can:

  • talk to the person causing the noise - often people don't realise they're causing a problem and will change their behaviour if you talk to them in a friendly way.
  • seek mediation through the Community Justice Centre
  • lodge a complaint with Council
  • contact the police - if you are disturbed by a 'one-off' problem (such as a noisy party or loud music) outside Council's business hours, you might consider contacting the police. The police can issue a Noise Abatement Direction directing a person to stop making the offensive noise. A Noise Abatement Direction may be issued at any time of the day or night and can remain in force for up to 28 days. Any person who then fails to comply with this direction can be fined. Police also have special powers that allow them to seize equipment used to make noise (for example, they could seize a sound system in contravention of a noise abatement direction). 
  • seek a Noise Abatement Order - under section 268 of the POEO Act a resident or a person in a commercial or industrial premises who is affected by offensive noise can seek a court order to stop or prevent offensive noise. Fees apply. Contact Penrith Local Court on 1300 679 272 or visit the NSW Local Court website for information about the process, including what information the court will need to consider issuing the order. If the court is satisfied there is offensive noise, or that it is likely to recur, it may order the person to stop the noise or to prevent a recurrence. Failure to comply with the order could lead to prosecution.

What is offensive noise?

Offensive noise is defined as noise that, by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances is:

  • harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
  • interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted.

If you make a complaint to Council, one of our officers will assess the noise against the existing background noise level. If the noise is considered to be offensive, the officer will then take appropriate action to have the noise reduced to an acceptable level. Whether a particular noise is deemed to be offensive is based on a subjective assessment by an authorised officer of Council, which is based on the provisions of the POEO Act.

In addition, certain activities or equipment have restricted hours of operation that apply as outlined in the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2017. These restrictions apply where noise from these activities or equipment can be heard within a habitable room of another residence with or without the windows or doors open. 

Table caption: Noise pollution type and restrictions
Noise sourceTimes during which special restrictions apply
Power tools and equipment 
(such as powered garden tools, electric power tools, pneumatic power tools, chainsaws, circular saws, gas or air compressor and swimming pool pump) 
  • 8pm to 8am on weekends and public holidays
  • 8pm to 7am on any other day
Musical instruments and sound equipment 
(such as radios, TVs, tape recorders or compact disc players, public address systems or computer games) 
  • 12 midnight to 8am on any Friday, Saturday or day immediately before a public holiday
  • 10pm to 8am on any other day
Domestic air conditioners 
  • 10pm to 8am on any Saturday, Sunday or on a public holiday
  • 10pm to 7am on any other day

Outside these hours, restrictions may be placed on the use of these activities or equipment if they are causing offensive levels of noise.

  • A Prevention Notice may be issued under Section 96 of the POEO Act, giving conditions on ways of preventing or stopping a noise;
  • A Noise Control Notice may be issued under Section 264 of the POEO Act, setting an acceptable noise level for a specific item of noisy equipment, such as air conditioners, swimming pool pumps and power tools. This notice can require that the noisy activities are only carried out at certain times of the day, or only on certain days.

Council can take further action if the person does not comply with a notice.

Tips for avoiding a noise complaint 

  • Consider your neighbours when using power tools or playing amplified music, even within the times shown above. Noise can be offensive at any time.
  • If you're going to be doing something noisy, such as having a party, using a chainsaw or doing building work, let your neighbours know and give them an idea of how long the noise will last. Most people appreciate the courtesy and can choose to get away from the noise if they prefer.
  • When you turn on your car's ignition, avoid revving the engine repeatedly. When coming home late at night be mindful of the volume of your stereo and slamming car doors.
  • Enclose your pool or spa pump to muffle any noise being produced. Run pumps only when necessary within the permitted times shown above.
  • Select quiet models when buying your air conditioner, pool pump, or garden equipment (such as leaf blowers, lawn mowers and edge cutters).
  • When installing any new equipment, think about the impact it might have on your neighbours. For example, place air conditioning units away from neighbours' bedrooms and living room windows or have the equipment acoustically shielded.
  • Keep the noise down in your backyard or on your balcony, especially after dark.