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EPA fines Biomix $8k for compost breach

By Holly Tregenza

WE ALL know when it comes to the EPA, it’s generally good to follow the rules.

But Stanhope-based composting company Biomix has received an extra loud reminder of that in the way of a whopping $8060 fine from the environmental authority.

It is accused of stockpiling industrial waste and storing it outside its facility’s boundary, breaking the EPA licensing agreement.

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. We did store unscreened finished compost in the paddock next to the processing area,’’ she said.

“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 100,000 tonnes 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, engineered hardstands to separate the waste from the soil underneath, and properly designed drainage to keep runoff from contaminating groundwater and local waterways.

EPA’s regional manager north west 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. There are official orders, fines and possibly prosecution in court for those who don’t,” Dr Pigdon said.

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