Heavy fine, community work for pollution offences
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 1:30 p.m.
Two Bay of Plenty men have received heavy fines or a sentence of community work for waste and effluent pollution offences.
A Rotorua man has been fined a total of $30,000 for his role in the dumping and burning of demolition waste on a Te Manu Road property.
In a joint prosecution by Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Rotorua District Council, Raymond Keith Fleming was fined in Tauranga District Court this week for unlawfully allowing disposal of demolition waste from Rotorua Hospital without a resource consent and burning prohibited waste from demolition work. The rubbish included plastic, tyres and treated timber.
In February 2012 Bay of Plenty Regional Council received complaints that the defendant was unlawfully depositing waste from Rotorua Hospital demolition work onto the property.
A Regional Council officer went to the hospital and observed waste being loaded onto a Waikato Demolition truck, then followed the truck to the Te Manu Road property. The waste included concrete, reinforcing steel, treated timber, polythene, plastic piping and fibreglass insulation. The officer later observed a large amount of smoke coming from open burning.
In a joint enforcement operation, staff from Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Rotorua District Council later found one site at the Te Manu Road property for concrete dumping and one site for demolition waste, which included electronic equipment, lino, insulation material, cladding, treated timber, green waste, buried polystyrene, records from the hospital and other materials.
Notes at the offices of Waikato Demolition's head office detailed 28 rubbish loads in a two week period. The defendant said he didn't think he required consents, and that he had a fire permit from Rotorua District Council to burn rubbish.
Judge Robert Wolff imposed a fine of $30, 000 on Fleming, allowing 25 percent discount for mitigating factors - 20 percent for an early guilty plea and a five percent discount for Fleming's remorse and remedial work.
This followed the sentencing of Fleming's co-offender, Waikato Demolition, in December 2012. Waikato Demolition was the demolition contractor that had taken waste materials from Rotorua Hospital to the Te Manu Road site, and was fined $29,400 for its role in the offending.
Regional Council Pollution Prevention Manager Nick Zaman said the total fines imposed for the illegal waste disposal were $60,000, and highlighted how seriously the courts were now treating illegal waste disposal.
"In Mr Fleming's case the motive for illegal acceptance and disposal of waste was clearly financial gain. Mr Fleming had undercut the price for disposal at the local authorised landfill (which had the correct consents and processes in place to deal with the waste) and by doing this, was cheating the community and businesses that did the right thing.
"It is important that anyone involved in waste disposal or demolition work ensures they are disposing of waste lawfully," Mr Zaman said.
Rotorua District Council's Planning Manager Liam Dagg said the two successful prosecutions highlighted the collaborative approach the District and Regional Councils were prepared to take to protect Rotorua's environment.
"They should be seen as a warning that anyone flouting environmental law will find themselves before the Environment Court. It's clear from these successful prosecutions that the court takes a very dim view of these types of offences and is prepared to deal decisively with offenders."
In the second case, a dairy farmer was sentenced to 320 hours community work for discharging farm effluent onto land which could result in the contaminant entering water.
In Tauranga District Court Judge Robert Wolff said he would have imposed a penalty of $32,000 on Ian Kevin John Ruff, but as the offender was unable to pay the fine he sentenced Mr Ruff to 320 hours community work. The maximum amount of community work that could have been imposed is 400 hours.
The defendant was leasing a farm on State Highway 35 at Opotiki. When a Council officer inspected the farm in December 2011 he found the effluent pond was overgrown with weeds and effluent was overflowing through a channel that went into a nearby spring-fed stream. The Council officer issued an abatement notice to Mr Ruff requiring him to prevent the discharge.
However, seven weeks later on a follow-up inspection an officer found effluent continued to overflow into the same stream from the same pond.
Water samples showed 300,000 faecal coliforms per 100mL where the effluent overflowed from the pond to the stream. The maximum level for safe bathing is 550 faecal coliforms per 100 mL and the maximum allowable level before stock drinking water becomes unsafe is 100 faecal coliforms per 100mL.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution prevention manager Nick Zaman said the conviction sent a very clear message that discharging effluent where it could enter a stream was never acceptable.
"We have had other offences of this nature in the same area, and we are very concerned that some farmers are continuing to ignore maintenance issues on their farms. This offender had already been warned on a previous occasion, and had been issued with an abatement notice but effluent continued to discharge to the stream.
"Farmers need to always keep a watchful eye on their effluent systems, ensure they are working correctly and are adequately maintained for the protection of our waterways," he said.