Drone surveillance leads to $270,000 in penalties for pollution offences
Liverpool Local Court has convicted and fined Mr Fouad Arja for waste and pollution offences at a rental property in Rossmore following successful prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The convictions come after a complex investigation conducted by the EPA which relied upon covert surveillance footage obtained from drones and CCTV, as well as a search warrant conducted with NSW Police.
(You can find the drone and surveillance footage which assisted in the prosecution here: https://we.tl/t-WJE4dKwwx8)
The EPA prosecuted Mr Arja for three environmental offences, including land pollution, failing to comply with a prevention notice and carrying out an unlicensed scheduled activity, namely waste disposal.
Mr Arja plead guilty to the three offences. Magistrate Imad Abdul-Karim convicted Mr Arja and fined him $60,000 for each offence, totalling $180,000 in fines. Mr Arja was also ordered to pay the EPA’s legal and investigation costs of $90,000.
EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Carmen Dwyer said the EPA acted on a tip-off from Liverpool City Council and the community.
“An initial inspection of the property found stockpiles of demolition waste, more than 500 waste tyres and wrecked vehicles across on the five-acre semi-rural residential block,” Ms Dwyer said.
“After officers became aware of potential offences by the defendant, EPA drone surveillance revealed extensive stockpiling of a variety of waste, and also captured trucks delivering suspected demolition waste material.
“Testing of some of the waste material revealed it was contaminated, with the presence of asbestos detected.”
Ms Dwyer said Mr Arja was issued a prevention notice to stop the receipt, deposition, disturbance and removal of the waste materials at the property.
However, after the notice was issued, surveillance by the EPA captured more trucks entering the property depositing waste, and an excavator disturbing and spreading the waste.
A search warrant was subsequently executed, finding building and demolition waste buried at the property. Asbestos waste, approximately 1,500 waste car tyres and at least 240 whole vehicles and vehicle parts were also stockpiled at the site.
Ms Dwyer condemned the behaviour of Mr Arja and said it put others at risk.
“The EPA is warning anyone trying to hide contaminated waste that it will use the best technology to ensure human and environmental health is protected. We expect everyone in the community to follow the rules when it comes to handling contaminated waste.”