Contractor fined for dumping asbestos at Lismore property

Date: Jan 19, 2015

A Ballina-based contractor has been found liable of dumping asbestos at a property in Lismore, resulting in a $50,000 fine.

ABC Ballina Asbestos & Demolition was caught red-handed after Lismore City Council compliance officers followed the company’s trucks after it demolished a fire-damaged building.

The tippers deposited waste at a property on Houlden Road in North Lismore, with council staff discovering approximately 48 tonnes of material, including concrete, timber, bricks, paper, plastic, metal and wire.

A sample of the dumped material was taken for testing, where it was confirmed to contain asbestos, a substance known to cause serious lung diseases including mesothelioma.

Lismore City Council prosecuted ABC Ballina Asbestos & Demolition and the firm’s owner Barry Curtis at Lismore Local Court, with Magistrate David Heilpern describing it as an “offence of greed”.

He argued that it was “horrendous and beggars belief” that a professional company involved in asbestos would be so careless in disposing of the hazardous material.

The severity of the situation was exacerbated by the fact the council had brought previous charges against Mr Curtis for dumping waste. The courts also highlighted the importance of the public safety aspect of the case.

According to Lismore City Council, the owners of the property where the building waste was disposed had not given permission and were unaware of the incident.

Stiffer penalties possible

Mr Curtis and his enterprise were forced to pay more than $5,400 for the council’s legal costs in addition to the $50,000 fine.

However, a spokesperson for the council said if the company is convicted again under the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act within the next five years, it could face more serious charges. This may include a prison term for Mr Curtis.

Peter Jeuken, development and compliance manager, also encouraged people to phone their local council so that similar incidents can be investigated.

“The seriousness of illegal dumping cannot be underestimated as a significant risk to the environment and to human health, and the fine imposed by the court is a warning to anyone thinking about dumping waste,” he explained.

“People also need to be careful in choosing a demolition contractor to use, because not only are transporters liable for illegal waste dumping, but customers who engage or accept waste from illegal waste dumpers can also be liable for fines, clean-up orders and legal costs.”

Anyone with information regarding the illegal dumping of asbestos and other materials are urged to ring the NSW Environmental Protection Agency.

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