Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA issues $61,000 in fines for unlawful waste activities at Salt Ash

Media release: 30 September 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued fines of $61,000 after soil containing acid sulfate was dumped at the Bruce Mackenzie Complex at Salt Ash. 

Port Stephens Council has been fined $45,000 for unlawful transport of waste and use of land as a waste facility, while consultant Cardno (NSW/ACT) Pty Ltd (Cardno) has been fined $16,000 for supplying false and misleading information about the waste’s composition.

In March 2015, despite not being licensed to store or dispose of waste at the complex, Port Stephens Council transported and deposited approximately 20 tonnes of waste generated through construction activities at Salt Ash Hall, to the Bruce MacKenzie Complex. A further 3,000 tonnes of excavated soil from a works site in Medowie was transported to the complex in July 2015, for the purposes of building a BMX track.

Following reports about the stockpiled soil from a concerned member of the public, EPA investigations found that the soil contained acid sulfate, which can cause risks to the environment and to human health, as well as significant amounts of mixed building and demolition materials.

EPA Manager of Regional Waste Compliance Cate Woods said while the intention to reuse the material was good, the manner in which this was done potentially put the environment and human health at risk.

“Port Stephens Council had the waste tested for contaminants by Cardno but this was only after it had already arrived at the Bruce MacKenzie Complex, potentially already posing a risk to the environment,” Ms Woods said.   

“Furthermore, Cardno issued two reports concluding that waste at both the Complex and the Medowie site was Excavated Natural Material and appropriate for reuse, despite their test results showing that this was not the case. Our testing also confirmed the presence of acid sulfate soils, which Cardno had failed to pick up. 

“Acid sulfate soils are commonly found in coastal areas of NSW and potentially have a significant impact on the environment if they are exposed to oxygen. Exposure may generate sulfuric acid, which in turn can impact water quality and damage infrastructure. Careful management is required to minimise this risk.

“Port Stephens Council has since voluntarily undertaken two separate neutralisation treatments and the EPA will continue to monitor the outcome of this treatment and final use of the waste.”

Penalty notices are just one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve compliance with the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. Others include investigation, prevention and clean up notices; official cautions; and prosecutions.

The EPA takes a range of factors into account before delivering a proportionate regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, whether or not there are any real or potential health impacts, if the action of the offender was deliberate, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes.

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 30 September 2016