Illegal dumping is a serious problem in Australia.
Not only does it harm the environment given waste pollutes our waters and land, it also impacts communities at large, who end up affected because along with being unsightly, it puts health and safety at risk, especially when asbestos and hazardous chemicals are involved.
If that wasn’t enough of a deterrent from the illegal act, let the reality of the whopping fines for the offence set in.
To highlight a case in point, earlier in 2021, a Sydney man was fined a startling $100,000 by the Land and Environment Court after he was found to have committed a series of environmental offences several years prior at a property on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, situated near the small town of Spencer in New South Wales.
The man was prosecuted by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in July, pleading guilty to dumping approximately 21,000 tonnes of concrete, car parts, timber, plastic and asbestos on the river.
In addition to being charged with unlawfully transporting waste, the EPA also fined the man for offences of land pollution and using the property as a waste facility.
In fact, according the EPA, the alleged offences were ongoing for around 15 months, spanning from February 2015 and May 2016.
A Costly Legal Process: Sydney Dumper Also Forced to Pay EPA’s ,000 Investigation Costs
If you thought the $100,000 fines for the man’s illegal dumping weren’t bad enough, the EPA also ordered to pay for the body’s investigation and legal costs on top, which amounted to an excruciating $80,000.
Additionally, the EPA also issued the Sydney man with a clean-up notice, requiring him to take steps to remediate the property to eliminate the risk of continuing harm to the environment.
In addressing the matter, EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations, Carmen Dwyer, said the penalties for committing waste offences were abundantly clear.
“Rules and regulations around how to manage waste materials are clear and designed to reduce risks associated to the environment and the community,” Ms Dwyer said.
“If you don’t dispose of waste correctly, there will be consequences.”
Ms Dwyer also said the EPA, in conjunction with Gosford Council, were responsible for the man being investigated and prosecuted.
“Following a thorough investigation by the EPA, the perpetrator has been brought to account for his actions,” Ms Dwyer said.
It is within the powers of the EPA to employ prosecutions to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions.
Furthermore, the EPA works alongside local governments to combat illegal dumping.
While small-scale roadside dumping and the illegal disposal of household and domestic waste remain the responsibility of local government, it is within the EPA’s powers to share intelligence, along with providing support and training in surveillance, investigation and evidence collection techniques to assist councils identify and successfully prosecute offenders.
Communities at large expect industries and businesses to operate responsibly to ensure looking after the environment and future generations by disposing their waste in a legal manner.
Needless to say, illegal dumping can cost thousands of dollars to clean up and leave the land contaminated.
In turn, this reduces the land’s value.
It should be noted that landowners can be impacted even if they unknowingly accept waste onto their property.
For legal advice on dumping laws, we recommend contacting our criminal lawyers in Sydney. The below sets out an outline on the law and penalties for illegal dumping in NSW.
While it may come as a surprise to learn, in NSW, it is actually against the law to transport or deposit waste to a location that cannot legally accept it.
This is guided by section 143 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) and is a measure to protect the environment from the harms of unlawfully dumped waste.
Section 143 states that if a person transports waste to a place that cannot lawfully be used as a waste facility for that waste, or causes or permits waste to be so transported, the person, and the owner – if the person is not the owner – are each guilty of an offence.
The maximum penalty you can face in the case of a corporation is a fine of $2,000,000 (where the offence involves asbestos waste), or $1,000,000 otherwise.
Where the offence has been made by an individual, the maximum penalty is a fine of $500,000 (where the offence involves asbestos waste), or $250,000 otherwise.
The “owner” of waste means, in relation to waste that has been transported, the person who was the owner of the waste immediately before it was transported.