The bulk haulage company Alcobell Pty Ltd (Alcobell) and its director, Mr Campbell, were fined a total of $87,000 by Justice Pain of the NSW Land and Environment Court over waste transport and dumping offences and for providing false or misleading information to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The Defendants pleaded guilty to a total of six illegal waste transport and dumping offences under ss 143-144 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (PEO Act). However the Court rejected the Prosecutor's argument that the Defendants deliberately transported waste containing asbestos to three properties used as illegal waste facilities. Rather the Defendants had failed to properly understand that the waste did not meet any waste exemptions granted under cll 51–51A of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2005 (NSW) (Waste Regulation).
Mr Campbell also pleaded guilty to the s 211(2) PEO Act offence of knowingly providing false or misleading information in waste load worksheets provided to EPA investigators. The Court convicted and fined Mr Campbell although the Court accepted that Mr Campbell did not deliberately intend to mislead or conceal facts about Alcobell's activities.
In addition to $87,000 in fines the Court ordered the Defendants to pay the EPA's investigation costs ($23,409) and legal costs (over $210,000).
During 2010–2012 Alcobell transported about 6,500 tonnes of waste containing asbestos, which came from skip operators. The waste was deposited on three rural properties at Lithgow, one of which was owned by Mr Campbell, other than in accordance with waste exemptions and without the necessary environment protection licences, or development consent for 2 of the properties. Alcobell earned about $150,000 from skip operators and avoided paying almost $500,000 in waste levies. Alcobell ceased operating in 2013.
Mr Campbell and the other 2 property owners intended that the waste would be used on each of the 3 properties for roads or earthworks. Mr Campbell believed that a waste exemption under the Waste Regulation covered the work he was doing.
During the subsequent EPA investigation Mr Campbell provided the EPA with a set of Alcobell's internal running worksheets of daily waste loads, telling investigators that this was a true, accurate and complete record. The EPA later executed a search warrant and seized worksheets that differed from the set Mr Campbell provided.
FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND WASTE EXEMPTIONS DID NOT APPLY
The Court held that the EPA had not proved that Mr Campbell intended to use his own land as a waste facility. Mr Campbell had applied for and obtained development consent for the work on his land and the waste deposited by Alcobell was used to make roads. The Court accepted that the Defendants and the owners of the other two properties always intended that the waste would be used on the three properties for roads or earthworks. This was not a case where the waste was deliberately taken to the properties with the intention of avoiding lawful disposal. The Defendants' conduct should be understood as failing properly to understand that the waste did not meet any relevant waste exemption, and that consequently the waste could not lawfully be disposed of on any of the three properties (at ). While the Court found that Mr Campbell's conduct was not reckless or deliberate, his actions were negligent for a person involved in the transport of waste who was required to be familiar with the waste regulatory regime (at ).
NO DELIBERATE INTENT TO MISLEAD OR CONCEAL FACTS ABOUT ALCOBELL'S ACTIVITIES
The Court accepted that the worksheets Mr Campbell provided to EPA investigators were merely an internal running record of work completed by Alcobell. The worksheets had not been prepared for a third party with the intention of falsifying Alcobell's activities. There was no deliberate intention to mislead or conceal facts by Mr Campbell (at –).
The Court convicted and fined the Defendants a total of $87,000. The Court also ordered the Defendants pay the EPA's investigation costs ($23,409) and legal costs (over $210,000) (at ).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.