Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Watch out for dirt bags: EPA and councils issue warning on contaminated soil scam

Media release: 6 February 2017

Unsuspecting property owners in south west Sydney are falling victim to dirt bags who are providing them with soil that is contaminated with building and demolition waste, heavy metals or even asbestos.

If the ‘dirt deal’ seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s the message from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Wingecarribee councils when it comes to dodgy companies and individuals offloading contaminated soil as ‘clean’ or ‘certified’ fill onto unsuspecting property owners.

The EPA and councils are receiving increasing numbers of reports of fill (soil excavated from one site and used as a base material in building, landscaping or general fill somewhere else) being delivered to unsuspecting property owners with false promises that it is clean and harmless, only to find that it is contaminated.

Manager Regional Waste Compliance Cate Woods said property owners and tenants need to treat offers of free or cheap fill extremely carefully.

“Our investigations are showing us it’s common for dodgy operators to advertise their ‘clean’ or ‘certified’ fill through classified ads websites, roadside signage, letter box drops or doorknocking directly,” Ms Woods said.

“Often these people will promise their fill is ‘guaranteed clean’ or ‘certified” and will even offer to deliver and level the soil for free. Often, property owners are promised validation certificates, but they are never provided and the waste is dumped anyway. To the untrained eye, the soil may seem fine but unfortunately, this is not always the case.

This ‘clean’ or ‘certified’ fill is often found to contain building and demolition waste, heavy metals and even asbestos. In some cases, initial loads of fill look clean but subsequent loads are where the problems can start.

“Our investigations have also shown time and time that many of these companies and individuals are linked to other criminal behaviour such as using false names, trespass, monetary fraud, provision of false information about waste – these are not people you want on your property.

“By accepting contaminated waste onto your property, you are inadvertently breaking the law and can be left holding the bill for any clean-up costs, as well as dealing with any environmental pollution,” Ms Woods said.

Property owners can take steps to ensure they don’t get caught in a scam.

If you or your neighbours are looking to fill in an old swimming pool, raise or level an area of land, or do any other bulk earthworks, you need to make sure you have the appropriate approvals and you’re bringing in the right material to do the job.

There are companies and individuals out there making money by tricking property owners into accepting contaminated material, sometimes even giving out fake validation reports. It is despicable behaviour - don’t let yourself become a victim.

LANDOWNERS: KNOW THE CLEAN FILL DRILL

  1. Get the approvals – Council approval is often required so check with your local council before you accept any fill.
  2. Do your research – Use a reputable supplier and, if you have doubts, request that the material is sampled or analysed. Ask your council or ring the EPA for more information.
  3. Record details - Take down the details of anyone delivering fill to your property, including name, driver’s licence, vehicle registration, vehicle signage or any other information you might observe. This can be used to track down dodgy operators in cases where fill is found to be contaminated. 
  4. Be there - Be at your property when all the fill is delivered. If you see something odd such as chunks of bricks, tiles, fibrous material or sheeting - ask the transporter to stop and call your local council or the EPA Environment Line on 131 555.
  5. Secure your property – Once your job is complete, make sure that you secure entry to your property to prevent dodgy operators from coming back with unclean loads.
Further information about the requirements when accepting fill on your property, can be found on relevant council websites and the EPA’s website at http://epa.nsw.gov.au/illegaldumping/index.htm


Contact: EPA public affairs

Page last updated: 06 February 2017