Court ordered clean-up to cost convicted man millions

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has secured a conviction against Mr Thomas Hughes for two waste offences in the Land and Environment Court.

Mr Hughes was ordered by the Court to clean up the waste and make good on the environmental damage caused, which is estimated will cost him more than $2 million. He was also ordered to pay $45,000 to the Environmental Trust, and to pay the EPA’s legal and investigation costs of $102,000.

Additionally, Mr Hughes was ordered to publish three ads publicising his convictions and penalties in trade and news publications Inside Waste, Housing Magazine, and the Newcastle Herald.

The EPA prosecuted Mr Hughes for unlawfully transporting waste and for using a premises as a waste facility without lawful authority. Mr Hughes entered guilty pleas to both charges.

Mr Hughes caused the transport of at least 4,500 cubic metres of mixed building and demolition waste to a property near Muswellbrook. The Court heard that the property was purchased in the name of Mr Hughes’ 16 year old grandson but funded by Mr Hughes in 2013.

The waste materials were transported in trucks from the site of Mr Hughes’ business, Thomas Paul Constructions Pty Ltd, in Tuggerah, on several occasions dating back to October 2013.

The Court heard that Mr Hughes directed truck drivers to take waste to the premises and bury the waste there.

Acting EPA Chief Executive Officer Mark Gifford said EPA investigators conducted a thorough investigation of the premises.

“Seventeen test pits were excavated across three areas of the property and building and construction waste was identified in 13 of those pits.”

Mr Gifford welcomed the Court’s decision and said there was no place for intentional illegal dumping of any kind.

“Mr Hughes had lawful options available to dispose of this waste such as recycling centres but chose to break the law and cause harm to the environment,” Mr Gifford said.

“The deceptive behaviour displayed by Mr Hughes is totally unacceptable and this penalty should serve as a deterrent to others considering illegally disposing of their waste.”

The EPA investigates all reports of potential pollution and encourages anyone with a concern, or knowledge of pollution in their local area, to contact the 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555.

Prosecutions are one of a number of tools the EPA uses to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm