Environmental Consulting Services Pty Ltd fined for providing false waste report

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued two fines of $8000 each to Environmental Consulting Services Pty Ltd (ECS) after the consultant provided a report with two false statements about waste characterised as excavated natural material.

Environmental Consulting Services undertook sampling of excavated soil at a site at Bourke Rd, Alexandria in August 2015, in an effort to prove it was excavated natural material and so could be lawfully transferred as fill to a commercial development in Gregory Hills, in Sydney’s west.

However, ECS did not undertake the full number of tests required and the Gregory Hills developer alerted the EPA to the matter.

In response to EPA investigations, Environmental Consulting Services admitted that its samples had not been tested for benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene, xylenes, foreign materials, electrical conductivity, and pH, despite these tests being required by the EPA. The concentration of copper also exceeded the requirements of the EPA’s resource recovery order. 

The report submitted by ECS had falsely stated that “the samples were tested for a range of suspected contaminants at this site including for contaminants listed in the excavated natural material order 2014” and “the concentrations in the stockpile meet the guidelines for Excavated Natural Material”.

EPA Director of Waste and Resource Recovery Steve Beaman said the incident was a timely reminder to environmental consultancies to ensure they submit detailed and accurate waste reports.

“Excavated natural material is very strictly defined: it must be 98 per cent natural material by weight, composed primarily of naturally occurring rock and soil, and meet specific thresholds when it comes to foreign materials, pH levels, electrical conductivity and certain chemicals,” Mr Beaman said.

“It is critical to the entire regulatory scheme that environmental consultancies make sure their reports are true and not false, otherwise there is a risk that waste will not be classified correctly and will end up in the wrong place.  It is for these reasons that the EPA takes a strong line in response to any reports that are false or misleading.

“Reports should also include as much relevant detail about the waste material as possible, including about the site history, sampling methodology, proposed uses and conclusions.”

Penalty notices are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions. 

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm