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Council warns of dangers of accepting ‘free’ fill

2 December, 2016Posted in: Environment
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Wingecarribee Shire Council is reminding landowners to be vigilant when buying or accepting fill onto their properties.

The call follows a number of recent incidents where residents have accepted discounted or ‘free’ fill only to learn later that the product is contaminated.

“Our proximity to Sydney and other larger metropolitan areas makes our Shire an attractive target for unscrupulous waste contractors looking to offload their fill,” said Council’s Group Manager of Planning Development and Regulatory Services, Nick Wilton.

“Unfortunately there have been a few incidents of late where the clean fill was not all it was purported to be,” he said.  “Some have contained contaminated products including building waste, harmful chemicals and even asbestos.”

A recent incident involved an estimated 20,000 tonnes of contaminated waste being disposed of on a Highlands property.

Council also warns that the landowner stuck with the contaminated fill may be liable for the clean-up costs.

“There have been recent instances where the operators who dumped the fill couldn’t be tracked down and when this occurs the landowner may be responsible for cleaning the site up,” Mr Wilton said.

The disposal of waste in a manner that harms, or is likely to harm the environment is a breach of Section 115 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act).  The Act is administered by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).  Offences can result in fines up to $5 million for corporations including imprisonment.

“In addition to hefty fines and clean-up costs, landowners should be aware that accepting contaminated fill may permanently devalue their property and could even harm their family’s health,” Mr Wilton added.

When considering fill the following steps are recommended:

  • Check if filling is permitted and what Council approvals are required,
  • Check the credentials of anyone who offers you free or cheap fill,
  • Never accept fill from unknown sources,
  • Don’t release your address if publicly advertising for fill,
  • Ask the supplier to prove that the fill isn’t contaminated,
  • Supervise and inspect all loads of incoming fill,
  • Record details of all transporters bringing fill onto your property, and
  • Keep copies of all documents and records.

“If you suspect someone is illegally using waste as land fill or perhaps you’ve noticed suspicious truck movements, our advice is to contact the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555 or phone Council on 4868 0888,” Mr Wilton said.

Reports can also be made online via ridonline.epa.nsw.gov.au.

“When accepting any fill, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is!”