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Byron Shire
April 22, 2021

Enforcement expected over Broken Head dumping

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Truck seen dumping septic waste on Taylors Lake Road, Broken Head. Photo supplied.

Council staff say they are completing an investigation and expect to take enforcement action over an unlawful dumping of waste by a truck on January 31, 2019 at the corner of Broken Head Road and Taylors Lake Road.

After the dumping, staff told Echonetdaily that test results showed the material was not sewage, ‘but it did contain low levels of E Coli’. 

While staff said at the time the material was cleaned up quickly and public health risk and long-term impacts on the environment were minimised, former Greens mayor and NSW MP Jan Barham is pressuring for action by the compliance team, given it has now been four months.

She also claims the dumping was inexplicably omitted from staff’s compliance report.

Barham says Council has powers under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POE Act 1997) to issue an on-the-spot fine.

‘There is evidence; the contractor has admitted liability and the area in question is an environmental protection area and that all provides that a fine can be issued under the POE Act 1997.’

Additionally she highlighted Council’s compliance priorities, which are ‘also able to be enforced here as the dumping meets the recently adopted Compliance Priorities’. 

‘Compliance Priorities 1.1 reads “Developments, works, activities or uses that place people’s lives at immediate risk or are likely to cause a significant risk of environmental harm or pollution”.

Dumped septic waste on Taylors Lake Road, Broken Head. Photo supplied.

Witnessed by locals

‘In this case, if it weren’t for locals who witnessed and documented the dumping and contacted the council and the media, there may have been significant risk to a 7a Wetland area (now defined for E2 under the PP1) and the Aboriginal place, the Ti Tree Lakes, which means it may have also been cause for an additional fine under S120 for water pollution’.

Council staff told Echonetdaily, ‘Under Council’s Enforcement Policy, staff have discretion in deciding what enforcement action is undertaken on the basis of the available evidence and the circumstances of the individual case’.

Staff discretion

‘Options in this circumstance include a prevention notice (when it reasonably suspects that an activity has been or is being carried out in an “environmentally unsatisfactory manner” as defined in section 96 of the POEO Act) to prevent the likelihood of this type of incident happening again, and recovery of costs including clean-up, staff time, and testing’. 

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