Blind spot in law: Family left to deal with illegal dumping

A BRISBANE family with land in Yeppoon has been left with a “huge financial impost” and a difficult deadline upon discovering illegally-dumped asbestos on its Buccaneer Avenue vacant lot.

Ben Carew grew up in Rockhampton and purchased land in Yeppoon in 2007.

Last Thursday, he and his partner Claire Palmer were told by Livingstone Shire Council that potentially toxic material had been left at the address.

Today, Ms Palmer said tests confirmed the material was asbestos and she was given 24 hours to water and cover it.

Mr Carew said it was about four truck loads of material and the couple also had to remove it within five days at their own expense.

“The cost of removing soil contamination could be enormous,” Mr Carew said.

“It is also unlikely at this time of year that we can get it done in the time frame requested.

“We’re obviously very distressed by it. We basically feel like we’re being treated as the criminals.”

He said the site would be recorded on a register for 70 years after removal of the waste, making future sale difficult, and called it “a blind spot in the law”.

“These rules and laws were set up to punish people who are illegally dumping, but basically they’re being applied to people who have had stuff dumped on their land,” Mr Carew said.

“This is a case of complete injustice and a good example of government departments bashing the innocent victims of a crime.

“It’s an absolutely unbelievable risk that someone could have a vacant block of land and someone could do this, and you could end up with a huge financial impost.”

He said that regardless, he recognised the public health ramifications of the dumped asbestos and would do what was necessary to reduce those effects.

“The very government organisations, the council, the police, the state department – they’re meant to be there to support us, and yet it’s almost like they’re out to get us, or it’s set up to fail.

“There’s indifference to catching the people who’ve actually committed a crime and yet all the pressure is on us financially and time-wise.”

Ms Palmer said the council would not help with covering or removal of the asbestos.

She said it would be difficult to hire someone qualified to remove the material by the given deadline.

“I think it’s doubly hard because we’re not living there and obviously it’s a very busy time of year,” Ms Palmer said.

“We run a business, we have three children, and with the COVID restrictions we can’t just drop everything to fly up there to try to manage this in person.

“How would anyone feel if you came home from work one day and someone had dumped four truckloads of stuff on your frontage, and then people come along and say you have to remove it in five days?”

A council spokesman said enquiries in the area as to the source of the asbestos were unsuccessful.

“There has been further contact made with the owner to discuss clean up/protection obligations for the site,” he said.

“Contrary to what’s been reported to date, council officers have provided support and empathy to the land owners from the time of taking the initial call.

“Based on recommendations from the officers involved, council will not be imposing fines at this stage, and will continue to investigate the matter on behalf of all ratepayers in the shire.

“Council is extremely disappointed in this abhorrent behaviour and there is no excuse for the dumping of illegal materials anywhere in the shire.”

Dumped asbestos on the vacant Yeppoon lot.

The dumped asbestos.

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