NSW EPA slap Harwood Slipway with a $1500 fine

SLAPPED with a $1500 fine by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for illegally disposing of toxic waste earlier this year, the operators of a slipway on the Clarence River say it was a mistake.

Managing director of Harwood Slipway Pty Ltd Ross Roberts said 330 tonnes of waste, which contained traces of tributyltin (TBT), copper and zinc, had now been relocated.

Trucked to landfill in south-east Queensland, he estimates the cost will be close to $60,000.

"It was an error of judgement and we wished it hadn't happened, now we're trying to find a solution," Mr Roberts said.

The waste, which was relocated to property on Palmers Island in January, was a result of dredging the slipway after the floods last year.

"In the process of dredging we pulled up the TBT - left over from the army days," he said.

"The same stuff is all over Sydney Harbour. It's been in use for 150 years and is in every place the military has ever been."

TBT has been banned in Australia since 1989 and was a common compound found in older types of anti-fouling paints.

Copper and zinc are the active ingredients in modern antifouling paints and are used on most boats to prevent marine organisms from growing on the hulls.

EPA director North Branch Gary Davey said these elements, if not handled or stored correctly, could pose a real risk to the health of the environment.

"In this case, it appears that fortunately there was no environmental harm," he said.

Mr Roberts said while he accepted the waste could have been handled better, the commercial reality was the cost of managing industrial waste was prohibitive, particularly when the closest suitable facility is several hundred kilometres away.

"We are no longer able to use the waste facility in Grafton," he said.

"What do you do when the cost to transport it is more than the income from the job?

"There's not much profit in this industry - we're one of the last remaining slipways on the east coast.

"We employ up to 50 local people, many under 25. We need help from the government to find a solution."

Yesterday representatives from Clarence Valley Council and the EPA visited the Harwood Slipway to discuss possible solutions.

"Our officers are continuing to work with staff at Harwood Slipway to ensure they have the proper waste management systems in place onsite and follow the rules under the POEO Act," Mr Davey said.

"This particular situation could have been avoided if correct waste management systems had been in place and staff had received adequate waste management training from the start."

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