Asbestos waste delivery results in conviction and over $200,000 in penalties

A man who organised fill material containing asbestos waste to be deposited at two neighbouring properties in Sydney’s north-west has been convicted of polluting land in Windsor Local Court following a prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Michael Anthony Laird pleaded guilty to two charges of causing land pollution in June 2017 at the properties in Cleary Drive, Pitt Town.

The property owners engaged Mr Laird to bring in dirt to create building pads and to level out a section of land for a retaining wall.

Instead the fill material contained bricks, concrete, plastic fragments and asbestos.

During an inspection of the properties in late July 2017, Hawksbury City Council officers stopped the works after they observed bricks, concrete, metal, glass, clay pipes, timber and small fragments of fibro in the fill material. 

Sampling carried out by the EPA confirmed that the presence of asbestos in the fill materials was widespread.

As a result of the incident 1,351 tonnes of contaminated fill had to be cleaned up and removed.

On Wednesday 12 May 2021 Magistrate L Robinson convicted Mr Laird on both charges and ordered him to pay over $220,000 in financial penalties and costs.

The penalties included a fine of $28,000, the payment of clean-up costs of over $173,000, and legal and investigation costs of $20,000.

EPA Director Major Compliance and Investigations Greg Sheehy said the EPA prosecuted Mr Laird after a lengthy investigation.

He said property owners should never accept fill without first checking it was legal, accompanied by a written report certifying the quality of the fill and its origins, and if council approval was required.

“Fill may be free or cheap to bring on to a property, but if it is contaminated, the clean-up costs can be high – and the property owners can be left footing the removal bill as well as dealing with environmental pollution,” Mr Sheehy said.

“The EPA’s message is do not accept promises the fill will be clean. Make sure you check. Contaminated fill can contain anything from building waste to asbestos or chemicals and heavy metals that you do not want to expose your family to.”

For more information on how to protect your property from dirty fill visit the EPA website.