30 July 2021

Cootamundra soil recyclers fined by EPA for alleged asbestos breach

| Edwina Mason
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Mounds of soil at Environmental Earth Sciences International facility in Cootamundra

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has issued a $15,000 fine to Environmental Earth Sciences International Contracting for allegedly receiving asbestos-contaminated soil. Photo: Environmental Earth Sciences International.

A Cootamundra soil recycling facility has been slapped with a $15,000 fine by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for allegedly accepting and storing asbestos-contaminated waste at its contaminated soil treatment facility.

Environmental Earth Sciences International (EESI) Contracting is permitted by its licence to receive hydrocarbon – petrol, diesel, waste oil – contaminated soils from NSW, ACT and Victoria.

Its Cootamundra facility, located on Gundagai Road, treats incoming soils through a bioremediation process to reduce contaminant levels, with the recycled product either returned to the source site to allow for the backfilling of excavations, or remediated to NSW guidelines for reuse at landfill as day cover.

According to the EESI website, the recycled product has also been used for community projects such as playing fields, car parks and landscaping projects.

Soil being processed at Environmental Earth Sciences International facility at Cootamundra

Stockpiles of asbestos-contaminated soils at Environmental Earth Sciences International’s Gundagai Road facility were removed to facilities that could process them. Photo: Environmental Earth Sciences International.

EPA executive director regulatory operations Carmen Dwyer said on this occasion it is alleged EESI Contracting received asbestos-contaminated soil rather than soil which can be recycled.

“Samples taken by EPA officers indicated this waste contained asbestos, which the premises is not permitted to accept,” she said.

“The appropriate transport and disposal of asbestos is very important to avoid risk to the community and the environment.”

Ms Dwyer said after being contacted by the EPA, EESI Contracting took action with the stockpiles that tested positive for asbestos to minimise the potential for airborne movement and cross-contamination with other stockpiles.

This included covering the stockpiles and removing them to facilities which could lawfully receive asbestos-contaminated soils.

In addition to the penalty notice, EESI Contracting was also issued an official caution for unlawfully depositing treated soil to form an embankment, and exceeding its onsite soil volume limit under its environment protection licence.

The company is working with Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council regarding a remedy for the unlawful embankment.

EESI was contacted for comment but none was forthcoming.

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