Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA issues $8000 fine for Wallsend landfill fire

Media release: 2 August 2017

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Newcastle City Council $8000 for failing to follow proper notification processes when mattresses caught fire on the landfill cell at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre in Wallsend.

The fire in the mattress stockpile was discovered at about 7.30pm on 16 January 2017 and is believed to have caught alight through self-combustion but the EPA was not notified until 10am the following day. All site operators have an obligation to promptly report incidents.

Fire and Rescue deployed units to fight the blaze which was brought under control but hot and windy conditions – up to 37 degrees Celsius and 44km/hr winds – meant the fire re-ignited on January 18. Nine firefighting units and two firefighting aircraft were required to extinguish the blaze.

EPA Acting Waste Compliance Manager Steven James said notifying the EPA of pollution incidents is a requirement which ensures that environmental impacts can be identified and addressed as soon as possible.

“Council should have notified the EPA of the incident immediately. The delay in notifying the EPA on this occasion meant there was a breakdown in assessing the environmental impacts and informing local residents and businesses,” Mr James said.

“Not only was there damage to the facility, including burnt trees, pipes and the mattress shredder, but the significant amount of smoke and firewater runoff could have put the local environment and community at risk.

“The EPA should be alerted to these incidents immediately so we can take appropriate action to make sure these risks are minimised and potential impacts are communicated.”

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

Contact: Public Affairs

Page last updated: 02 August 2017