An earthmoving company engaged to remove asbestos-contaminated soil from a Sydney building site has been convicted of two offences of knowingly supplying fake tipping dockets and a disposal report that claimed the asbestos-contaminated waste had been lawfully disposed of, following a prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The Land and Environment Court found that Aussie Earthmovers Pty Ltd knowingly supplied false and misleading information about the disposal of approximately 1,400 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil from a building site in Darlington in central Sydney.
“A high penalty is warranted in the circumstances,” Justice Nicola Pain said in her judgment, which was handed down on 30 November 2020. Aussie Earthmovers did not appear in court to answer the charges.
Justice Pain fined Aussie Earthmovers a total of $450,000 for the two offences and ordered the company to pay the EPA’s legal costs. The maximum penalty for knowingly supplying false and misleading information about waste is $500,000 for a corporation.
The Court was told Aussie Earthmovers arranged for the removal of 134 truckloads of the asbestos-contaminated waste in June and July 2016.
An investigation by the EPA found one truckload was lawfully disposed of at the Suez Kemps Creek Landfill. The location of the remaining asbestos-contaminated waste is unknown.
Aussie Earthmovers supplied fraudulent waste disposal dockets and a falsified “Ticket List Report” to the construction company as proof the asbestos-contaminated waste had been lawfully disposed of. After receiving the fake documents, the construction company then paid Aussie Earthmovers for the removal of asbestos-contaminated soil.
EPA Director Major Compliance and Investigations Greg Sheehy welcomed the sentence.
“The judgment shows how seriously this type of criminal behaviour is regarded by both the courts and the EPA,” Mr Sheehy said.
“These crimes by rogue operators defraud honest companies, damage the environment and can harm human health. The EPA will pursue offenders and prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
A former employee of the earthmoving company, Paul Mouawad, will be sentenced in early 2021 for two charges of knowingly supplying false and misleading information about the disposal of asbestos-contaminated waste from the Darlington site. Mr Mouawad has pleaded guilty to the charges.
The investigation into Aussie Earthmovers was led by the EPA’s Waste Crime Taskforce, which targets serious and complex waste-related crime and organised criminal behaviour. The Taskforce included experienced investigators, legal and intelligence and waste compliance staff.