In the latest in a string of illegal dumping of asbestos-containing waste, the Environment Protection Authority has revealed that Maas Group Properties, alleged of having transported waste to a housing estate in Dubbo, was fined a meagre $563.
The fine relates to an administration fee, despite allegations that the company was responsible for dumping several tonnes at the new Southlakes housing estate.
The NSW EPA issued a cleanup notice to Maas Group Properties, the developer of the estate, back in April, over the transportation of building and demolition waste from Millers Point in Sydney, to the site.
According to the cleanup notice, contaminated waste was dumped at the site, near to homes that had already been occupied. Maas has not been charged with any further violations of EPA legislation.
Greg Sheehy, director of waste compliance at the EPA, explained that the company was “issued with a cleanup notice and have complied with that cleanup notice so at this stage we are not intending to take any additional action in relation to that.”
Maas has fervently denied having illegally filled or dumped asbestos-containing materials. CEO, Wes Maas, explained that “The material was removed as it didn’t fit within the recycled aggregate exemption, which would have allowed it to be used in the development.”
“The reference to asbestos in the cleanup notice was only in the preamble/ background and it said the material was “possibly containing asbestos”, he said.
“Subsequent to the notice the material was tested and confirmed by the EPA that it did not contain asbestos,” Maas said. He also claimed independent accredited environmental consultants confirmed that there was no asbestos-containing material at the sites.
“I can categorically tell you that there was no asbestos in the material that was transported from Sydney, this was tested and confirmed it was clear of asbestos. This was tested and confirmed by independent labs and also the EPA.”
Countering this, the EPA said via a spokesperson that “asbestos-containing material was identified at a number of locations on the site within the area covered by the cleanup notice and was removed from the site and disposed of at a lawful waste facility as part of the remediation of the site.”
This case, and that at Oran Park in south-western Sydney, highlights the challenges facing residents, landowners and local councils when asbestos-containing material is found in fill or turf underlay at new developments. Reports of illegal dumping at development sites are increasing, according to EPA figures, but the organisation is clearly seeing some challenges in the process of prosecuting those responsible.
In 2018, Gabrielle Upton, the environment minister at the time, said that “illegally dumping asbestos is a serious crime, and we want dumpers to know there are tough penalties for those that flagrantly break the law.” In the same year, maximum penalties for those caught dumping, recycling or reusing asbestos material illegally, was increased to $2 million for corporations and half a million for individuals.