Council counts high cost
of unlawful waste disposal
BOURKE Shire Council has been convicted and fined $10,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of $14,000 after pleading guilty to unlawfully transporting and disposing of hazardous waste at its own waste depot.
It’s also been ordered to foot clean-up costs and risk-assessment reports totalling more than $30,000.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) brought the prosecution in Bourke Local Court after it became aware that council staff transported between 400 and 600kg of sodium fluoride, a hazardous waste, to the Bourke waste depot from its water treatment plant.
The court was told the incident occurred in October 2010 and that the waste depot was not licensed to accept hazardous waste.
The court found that while no environmental harm occurred on this occasion, there was potential for environmental harm and the actions of council employees had been careless.
EPA acting chief environmental regulator, Mark Gifford, says the case highlights the need for councils, in particular, to be aware of their legal obligations.
“In this case the evidence showed that council staff had considered the hazardous nature of sodium fluoride, but ultimately reached incorrect conclusions about how it should be disposed of,” Mr Gifford says in a statement.
“Sodium fluoride is classified as hazardous waste under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act.
“As such, the Bourke Shire Waste Depot is not able to accept this product.
“The fact that council’s staff were directed to transport the waste to council’s own waste depot is most concerning.
“The EPA received information that council had disposed of the sodium fluoride in the waste depot, launched an investigation and issued (the) council with a Clean-Up Notice.
“The Clean-Up Notice required (the) council to arrange for the sodium fluoride to be excavated and removed from the waste depot and transported to a hazardous waste facility.
“On top of the fine and costs order, (the) council has had to pay for clean-up costs and risk assessment reports totalling more than $30,000.” Mr Gifford says.