Four companies which were involved in an operation to transport 730 tonnes of lead slag to South Australia without a permit have been fined $10,000 each and ordered to pay more than $30,000 in costs by the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court.

Industrial Environmental Services Pty Ltd (Industrial), Hughes Construction Pty Ltd (Hughes Construction), Hughes Properties Pty Ltd (Hughes Properties) and Lobethal Nominees Pty Ltd (Lobethal) each pleaded guilty to a charge of conducting a business involving the transport of prescribed waste without a permit following an investigation by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

An EPA prosecutor told the court that 24 loads of lead slag totalling 730 tonnes were transported between a Laverton site and a landfill in McLaren Vale, South Australia between January and April 2015.

Twenty of the loads were transported by Hughes Properties and four by Lobethal after Industrial, which was engaged by the Laverton site, engaged those companies to transport the material. Hughes Construction were involved in invoicing for the transport of the material.

The court was told that the four companies were all aware they were dealing with lead slag but that none of them contacted EPA for advice.

Lead slag is waste produced during the smelting of lead. It is a Category A prescribed industrial waste – the highest classification – because it poses a serious risk to both the environment and human health and its storage, disposal and transportation is tightly regulated.

Magistrate Mike Wardell fined the four companies $10,000 each ($40,000 in total) and ordered they jointly pay EPA more than $32,000 in costs.

He said if not for the guilty plea he would have fined the companies $30,000 each.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson the companies should have known better and had a responsibility to the communities in which they operate.

“Waste producers, transporters and receivers all have a responsibility to manage waste safely and responsibly and to know where it will end up,” she said.

“Conducting a business which involves the transport of dangerous waste, even if you don’t physically transport the waste, is both illegal and unacceptable.

“EPA regulates the movement of prescribed industrial waste so rigorously because of the risk it poses to the community, which is also why it’s so important people and companies abide by the law.

“In this case, simply following the requirements as other operators do could have averted over $70,000 in fines and costs.”

To better reflect the seriousness of environmental offences, EPA's new Act, which takes effect from July 2020, will substantial increase the maximum court penalties. For corporations which breach the law, the most serious offence will attract a penalty of up to 20,000 penalty units ($3.2 million) - double the current maximum.

Guidelines on transporting prescribed industrial waste in Victoria and interstate are available at https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/iwrg832-3

Reviewed 11 November 2019