Land pollution defence for unlicensed landfills

The EPA enforces strict rules for land pollution to deter illegal dumping of waste including asbestos, waste tyres, hazardous waste, and restricted solid waste. There is a defence against a land pollution charge for unlicensed landfills, if those facilities maintain certain minimum standards.

Some wastes are automatically deemed land pollution

To deter illegal dumping, there are strict rules that apply to certain wastes.

list of wastes is automatically deemed to be land pollution under section 142 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act).

Penalties of up to $1 million for corporations and $250,000 for individuals are in place for those found guilty of dumping. 

What is the defence for unlicensed landfills?

By setting minimum operational standards for unlicensed landfills across NSW, the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 (Waste Regulation) provides a defence to land pollution at unlicensed landfills.

This defence to potential prosecution under section 142 of the POEO Act would be available if the landfill operator, at the time of the alleged land pollution, maintained these minimum standards at their facility.

These standards include measures to

  • reduce fire risk
  • reduce odour, noise and dust
  • control public access to the site
  • generally maintain the facility

How do these changes affect unlicensed landfill operators?

Unlicensed landfills across NSW vary greatly in how they operate. In some cases, this could pose a significant risk to the environment and health.

Strict rules and standards help the EPA and operators improve the operation of unlicensed landfills in NSW, to protect the environment and the health of the community.

These minimum standards are not a mandatory practice, however, they do provide a defence for operators against potential prosecution for land pollution under section 142 of the POEO Act.

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