News

Fined for EPA licence breach

By Holly Tregenza

Stanhope-based composting company Biomix has been fined $8060 by the Environmental Protection Authority for a breach of its licensing agreement.

Biomix has been accused of stockpiling industrial waste and storing it outside its facility’s boundary.

Biomix chief executive Vanessa Lenihan acknowledged the issue and said it was largely due to a rapid expansion of the business.

‘‘Biomix had unprecedented growth in the volumes accepted to the facility in 2018,’’ Ms Lenihan said.

‘‘We did store unscreened finished compost in the paddock next to the processing area.

‘‘In February 2019, Biomix approached the EPA and alerted them to the storage of this material and presented a plan to screen and remove this product, and we’ve been working closely with the EPA to enact a clean-up plan since then.’’

The site at Stanhope has a licence to process 100000tonnes of waste a year into compost for resale.

But as part of that agreement management must maintain a buffer zone between the facility and neighbouring properties, engineer hardstands to separate the waste from the soil underneath, and properly design drainage to keep run-off from contaminating groundwater and local waterways.

EPA’s north-west regional manager Scott Pigdon said storing organic waste outside the facility on open ground risked contamination.

‘‘The company’s Stanhope facility is licensed to produce compost at the facility that is specially designed to prevent contamination of the land and groundwater,’’ Dr Pigdon said.

The licence also limits the size of any stockpiles of waste and compost, and requires minimum separation distances between stockpiles and other fire suppression measures.

The site has had a number of fires in recent years.

EPA officers used a sophisticated aerial drone to survey the compost piles as part of their investigation.

‘‘This case is a reminder that EPA licences and the conditions that come with them are to be taken seriously,’’ Dr Pigdon said.

‘‘There are official orders, fines and possibly prosecution in court for those who don’t.’’

Ms Lenihan said Biomix was confident the work put in to address the issue during the past six months meant the stockpiling would not happen again.