Two contractors who allowed at least four loads of industrial waste to be dumped in Freshwater Creek have been fined a combined $10,000 after an investigation by Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Surf Coast Shire.
Council officers found the large piles of waste on Pettavel Rd in April and traced it back to a demolition and shop fit-out in Torquay.
The investigation revealed the company doing the shop fit out had contracted Master Cleaners (Aust) Pty Ltd (Master Cleaners) to remove and dispose of the waste. Master Cleaners then engaged a third-party contractor who runs a lawn mowing and landscaping business in the Surf Coast area to remove the waste.
The invoices showed seven loads of two 660-litre wheelie bins had been removed from the site during April 2018.
EPA South West Manager Carolyn Francis said evidence of at least three of the loads were found on roadside reserves.
“Despite being aware there had been a problem with the disposal, Master Cleaners continued to use the same third-party contractor for a further load of waste in May,” she said.
In a record of interview, the third-party contractor confirmed CCTV footage showed him collecting the waste, but he argued he’d passed the van onto another person and paid them in cash to take the plasterboard, plastic and cardboard waste to the tip, although he never requested any receipts or confirmation of this.
Master Cleaners (Aust) Pty Ltd was fined $8060 and the third-party contractor was fined $1934 for permitting dumping of industrial waste. The third-party contractor has also been issued with a Clean Up Notice for the Pettavel Rd site.
Ms Francis said the investigation had been aided by Surf Coast’s Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE).
The pilot program, which runs until 31 July 2019, has embedded 11 OPLEs within 13 councils across the state to improve responsiveness to lower-risk environmental issues, such as dust, odour, noise, illegal dumping, and stormwater pollution, and support business to improve their environmental compliance.
“The collaborative work done on this investigation by the OPLE, local council officers and EPA, saw the parties involved being identified and held to account,” she said.
“It’s a credit to the program.”
Surf Coast Shire General Manager Environment and Development Ransce Salan hailed the operational success.
“This investigation, with resulting prosecutions, clearly demonstrates the value the OPLE program and effective partnership between the Council and EPA officers,” he said.
“We look forward to it continuing.”
Ms Francis said it was disappointing that people and businesses within the community chose to dump waste in an inappropriate manner.
“A large amount of the waste dumped at Pettavel Rd could have been recycled, so leaving it to become an unsightly rot was a waste of waste,” she said.
“People who engage waste management and skip bin companies to remove and dispose of their waste should ensure that the waste is disposed of or recycled at an approved premise.
“Dumping industrial waste is costly to councils, the community, the environment and, as this case shows, the companies and individuals involved.”
Report pollution to EPA’s 24-hotline 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).
Businesses can learn more about their environmental obligations at epa.vic.gov.au/business-and-industry/know-where-your-waste-goes
Read more about the OPLE pilot program at epa.vic.gov.au/our-work/programs/ople-pilot