Pollution incident sees Hilltops Council enter into Enforceable Undertaking

Hilltops Council has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) following an air pollution incident that occurred from 8 to 26 October 2016.

Hilltops Council has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) following an air pollution incident that occurred from 8 to 26 October 2016. The pollution occurred when Hilltops Council (Council) arranged for waste materials to be burned at the Harden-Murrumburrah Waste Transfer Station.

A local resident reported the air pollution to the EPA’s Environment Line when plumes of smoke were seen leaving the waste transfer station. The EPA investigated the incident and found that waste materials including asbestos, timbers treated with copper chromium arsenate, coated wires and paint containers had been burnt, which is prohibited under NSW environment legislation.

The Enforceable Undertaking requires Council to review its waste disposal procedures and provide staff with waste identification and handling training, to ensure a similar incident does not occur again. Council has also agreed to pay the EPA’s legal costs to prepare the Enforceable Undertaking.

EPA Regional Director South and West, Gary Whytcross, said excess smoke from the fire had impacted the local area and posed a potential health risk to surrounding residents.

“Council’s failure to have adequate processes in place, and its failure to properly train and supervise relevant staff members contributed to the incident,” Mr Whytcross said.

“These failures breach Council’s obligations under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 and to the community.”

Under the Enforceable Undertaking, Council will spend $17,170 as part of an Illegal Dumping Project and Strategy. This will include the installation of a solar-powered remote surveillance camera, solar lights and new signage with two messages of “Report Illegal Dumping” and the EPA’s “Report a Tosser” at two illegal dumping hotspots.

“These actions will ensure that Council significantly improves its waste management and protects the community and the environment into the future”, Mr Whytcross said.

Enforceable Undertakings are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance. Others include formal warnings, penalty notices, notices and directions, mandatory audits, and, when necessary, prosecutions.

The EPA negotiates Enforceable Undertakings when serious licence breaches have occurred to ensure proper procedures are put in place to redress any environmental harm and obtain a good and lasting benefit for the environment.