A company and its two directors who dumped asbestos-containing industrial waste at a site in Cairnlea bordering homes have been ordered to pay a total of $600,000.
The company, 160 Leicester Pty (Leicester), was fined $300,000 and ordered to pay $30,000 to a community environmental project, and $35,000 in costs.
Leicester’s directors Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqiri were fined $120,000 each, almost the maximum amount available in the Magistrates’ Court.
Leicester and the directors pleaded guilty in March this year to depositing industrial waste at an unlicensed site and failing to comply with a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice, following an investigation by Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).
The EPA prosecutor told Sunshine Magistrates’ Court that Leicester owned the former Corkman Hotel site at 154-160 Leicester Street, Carlton, which was demolished in October 2016.
Following the demolition, EPA officers found the waste at the site of the former hotel contained asbestos. Seven days after the demolition, EPA received reports of industrial waste being dumped on a site in Furlong Rd, Cairnlea, which was bordered by residential properties on two sides, a shopping centre on another and was 350m from both a childcare and primary school.
Officers found the pile was 30m long, 8m wide and 1.5m high and contained wood, iron sheeting, bricks, carpet, rocks and piping.
The Cairnlea site was owned by another company of which Kutlesovski and Shaqiri are the sole directors.
Samples taken from the Cairnlea site also matched the same type of asbestos located at the Carlton site and officers recognised items from the Carlton site, including a framed sign detailing the former pub’s rules and conditions.
In November 2016, EPA issued the company a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice to cover the industrial waste at the Carlton site to ensure asbestos was not blown around in high winds. A condition of the notice was the site be checked daily to ensure the covering was adequate, but EPA inspections on November 15 and December 28, 2016 and January 3, 2017 found the tarpaulins were torn and inadequately covering the rubble.
Magistrate Richard Pithouse the directors and company’s actions showed “a complete disregard of the law”.
He described it as a significant breach.
“If jail was available I would be imprisoning the accused,” Magistrate Pithouse said.
“There needs to be a putative punishment for any developers who may wish to follow this path. It has to be discouraged, it has to be stopped.”
EPA CEO Cathy Wilkinson welcomed the decision.
“We hope this case sends a message to developers and company owners that they can’t put the public and the environment’s health at risk by ignoring their legal obligations to dispose of industrial waste at a facility licenced to receive it,” Dr Wilkinson said.
“We want to work with businesses to protect Victoria from harm from pollution and waste we don’t want them to think skirting around the law is the best and quickest way to get things done. Act first, ask for forgiveness later is not a viable approach as it will end up being much more costly in the long run.”
Under new EPA legislation passed by parliament last month, corporations face a maximum penalty of $1.6 million for illegal dumping – which is double the current maximum. (Takes effect from 1 July 2020).
This new legislation expands EPA’s powers to step in to prevent pollution from occurring and recognises our health is something we can’t take for granted.