Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined the operators of two local landfills thousands of dollars, after it used a sophisticated aerial drone to spot licence breaches that could have caused problems with odour and litter.
Officially known as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) the drone is a sophisticated relative of the drones used by enthusiasts, and enables EPA to conduct aerial surveillance and evidence gathering.
Geelong Landfill Pty Ltd has been fined $8,261 for a breach of its EPA-issued licence to operate a solid inert landfill at Hamilton Hwy, Fyansford.
The City of Greater Geelong has also been fined $8,261 for the same offence at its municipal landfill, on Becks Rd, Drysdale.
EPA South West Regional Manager Carolyn Francis says drone flights over a number of landfills late in the day found two landfills had left waste material still uncovered at the end of the day’s operations.
“Covering all waste material with a layer of soil at the end of the day is one of the basics of operating a landfill,” Ms Francis said.
“It is one of the simplest ways to control odour and the escape of litter from an operating landfill and is clearly listed as one of the requirements of their EPA licence,” she said.
“All landfill operators must know they have a responsibility to the environment and the community to undertake this kind of daily maintenance.”
Both operators have now improved procedures and practices to ensure the proper management is carried out at their landfills.
“Unannounced drone flights like these are now part of EPA’s routine compliance work to ensure the operators are meeting conditions of the licences they hold,” Ms Francis said
The RPAS program also allows EPA officers to investigate areas which are difficult to reach on foot or by vehicle, and to detect areas where waste may have been buried illegally.
EPA has Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) certification to operate the program and abides by CASA regulations requiring licensees to keep their RPAS more than 15m away from people.
RPAS must also be operated within line of sight and cannot be flown over populous areas, making them suitable for use in more remote locations.
Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2006, each recipient of a fine has the right to have the decision to issue the infringement notices reviewed or alternatively to have the matter heard and determined by a court.
Members of the public can report pollution by calling EPA’s 24 hour hotline on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).