Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) says that courts are increasingly prepared to convict companies and directors who are first time environmental offenders after a decision was handed down in the Dandenong Magistrates Court on 23 March 2020.
K & K Property Holdings Pty Ltd and sole director William Kerr were convicted, fined, ordered to clean up the site and pay EPA’s legal costs for conducting illegal burn offs and contravening a clean up notice on their Geelong Rd, Tottenham premises.
K&K ran a recycling business, but in November 2013 and October 2015 EPA Officers were called to investigate illegal burn offs. The EPA Officers ordered the burns to cease and issued a Clean Up Notice to remove stockpiled industrial waste dumped in numerous piles on the premises including one that was 30 metres by 50 metres and five metres high.
In response to the burn offs and a subsequent breach of the Clean Up Notice, EPA sought to prosecute K & K and its sole director in the Court which resulted in a conviction and fine for the company of $6,000. Kerr was also convicted, fined $6,000, ordered to pay costs of $10,975 and ordered to clean-up the site by 30 November 2020 pursuant to s.64 of the EP Act
A clean-up order pursuant to s.64 of the EP Act is an effective tool that can be used by the Courts to order a person to clean up a site by a specified date. If a person does not comply with the clean up timeframes, they are liable to hefty penalties of up to 300 penalty units (maximum penalty currently $49,566) for each and every day of non-compliance after that time.
“The clean-up order acts as a compelling deterrent to ensure clean up of the site is completed or risk further enforcement action by the EPA and the courts,” said EPA Executive Director Mark Rossiter.
In other recent cases, the Courts have fined a Moorooduc flower grower $150,000 for allowing an oil leak to contaminate a kilometre and a half of a drain and ordered they pay $500,000 compensation to EPA toward the clean up cost.
And an asbestos removal company was fined for falsely using the EPA name and logo to promote its business.
“Damage to the environment by businesses that should know better are not tolerated by the community and more frequently, we’re seeing that reflected in court decisions,” said Mr Rossiter.