A $7 tip fee could have saved one Hilltops resident thousands of dollars as the local council proved it is seriously cracking down on the dumping of illegal waste.
Living up to the tenet of the ACT/NSW Cross Border Illegal Waste Dumping Action Project, which was launched in 2014, Hilltops Council moved quickly to shut down illegal activities taking place in a sub-residential area near Young.
According to council’s general manager, Anthony O’Reilly, council launched an investigation after being alerted to a large volume of waste material being burnt close to town.
He said the owners of the property had been filling a gully with household and general waste for several months.
“This resulted in a large amount of plastics, cardboard, tyres, electrical and white goods being stored illegally on the property,” said Mr O’Reilly.
The owners had set fire to the rubbish to remove it, he added.
“This resulted in toxic fumes and smoke being released, which then drifted to nearby houses placing residents at risk of inhaling potentially toxic smoke,” said Mr O’Reilly.
He said as a result of the burn, chemicals and other leachates had entered the soil and created the risk of seeping into groundwater and other waterways, putting community members at risk.
The property owner was fined an administrative fee of $577, plus the significant costs of employing a professional excavation company to clean up their property.
Mr O’Reilly said this is only the beginning of Hilltops Council tackling the issue.
The fine for illegally using land as a waste facility is now $4000 for an individual and $8000 for a company, he said.
“In this instance, the landholders received a notice to clean up the property with an administrative fee of $577,” he said, adding that non-compliance could lead to possible court action.
Mr O’Reilly said waste disposal methods and regulations have changed during the years and it is the responsibility of each resident to know the rules and follow them.
“Within the Hilltops region there are dozens, if not hundreds, of illegal tips leaching potentially toxic chemicals into the environment,” he said.
“In this case, a large amount of the material burnt could have been recycled free of charge at one of our waste facilities. The non-recyclables could have been disposed of at the same facility for minimal cost.”
Mr O’Reilly said a Canberra-based project officer is working with Hilltops Council to reduce the incidence of illegal waste dumping and identify and penalise those people who are responsible.
The initiative forms part of the ACT/NSW Cross Border Illegal Waste Dumping Action Project, which includes Queanbeyan-Palerang, Yass Valley, Goulburn Mulwaree, Snowy Monaro and Hilltops councils.
Now statewide, these regional illegal dumping (RID) programs have been jointly developed by local councils and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and involve RID squads, which are regionally based teams that specialise in combating and preventing illegal dumping while focusing on particular issues in their region.
Part of the squads’ role is to identify and patrol illegal dumping hot spots; investigate illegal dumping incidents and take action against offenders; organise clean-ups; track down illegal landfills; identify changes and trends in illegal dumping across a regional area; deter community members from illegal dumping and educate them about the consequences; and run joint compliance campaigns with the EPA.
Mr O’Reilly said illegal dumping can be reported through RIDonline, an online reporting portal which allows the public to use their smartphones, tablets or computers to report illegal dumping.
Once a report is submitted, the NSW EPA alerts council to the incident for clean-up and further action.