farcical fine for dumper

By PETER CATON

A $14,000 penalty for a man who dumped a truckload of sewage beside the Tweed River has been slammed as inadequate by Tweed Mayor Warren Polglase and others.

Kyogle Pumping Services operator Geoffrey Davis was fined $5000 and ordered to pay $9000 costs in the Land and Environment Court this week - despite legislation allowing a maximum $120,000 fine.

Davis had pleaded guilty to dumping the septic tank waste near Uki on February 20 last year.

Five days later Tweed residents using town supplies drawn from the Tweed River downstream were warned to boil all drinking water, but no link was ever drawn by authorities.

Tweed Shire Council told parents not to send their children to school without boiled or bottled water.

However the next day the alert was blamed on dirty water in the bottom of an esky which had been used to carry water samples from both Uki's water system and the Tweed's main water treatment plant.

Uki residents were told to keep boiling their water for four days due to contamination by potentially dangerous organisms in samples taken out of their tapwater system.

Authorities also failed to link that contamination with the dumping of the septic waste but the NSW Environment Protection Authority proceeded to prosecute Davis for a breach of his licensing conditions by dumping the waste.

Yesterday Cr Polglase said the fine imposed by Justice Lloyd was another case of a court not reflecting the community views on penalties.

"I think the general community would expect a tougher line," he said.

"We have got to protect our river system - that's our only water supply. We have got to discourage everyone from doing this sort of thing, whether it is sewage on a riverbank or car bodies in a reserve."

Uki and District Residents' Association president Barry Longland said the penalty was simply "not enough".

"I don't think it gives a good signal about the value of our waterway. Pollution on this sort of scale should be punished more severely."

Even though no one became seriously ill and no links were proven with water contamination, he said a lot of people around Uki did get "crook" at the time.

Uki village resident Joy Armour said most local people had been "pretty upset" by Davis's action.

"It was a dangerous thing to do especially when it was so dry and the creek was so low," she said.

An EPA spokesperson said the fine was "reasonably significant for an individual" and despite the other contamination scares the EPA did not believe any of the septic waste got into the river water.



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