Drone videos bust illegal dumping in Oz environmental protection case

drone video illegal dumping

Note to individuals and companies hoping to flaunt environmental protection laws with impunity: Keep an eye peeled for any hacked-off-looking drones capturing video of your illegal dumping from on high. Because failing to do so is now going to cost one Sydney area man in nearly $200,000 in fines.

Brushed-off local Aussie EPA unit flies drones to film video of brazen illegal dumping

This month, a court in an Australian town about 25 miles west of Sydney slapped a local businessman with AUS $275,000 ($197,000) in penalties for multiple pollution offenses. The case was brought by the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency (NSW EPA), which used video shot from drones and CCTV footage to record the repeated illegal dumping at a property rented by the accused. Though the agency had issued warnings to cease the illicit, ecologically harmful activity, the suspect continued on with it, apparently figuring the NSW EPA would be both unable and unwilling to cause him any real trouble. 

Little did he know the agency had a drone, and was willing to use it.

“After officers became aware of potential offences by the defendant, EPA drone surveillance revealed extensive stockpiling of a variety of waste, and also captured trucks delivering suspected demolition waste material,” NSW EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Carmen Dwyer said in a report on the case. 

“An initial inspection of the property found stockpiles of demolition waste, more than 500 waste tires and wrecked vehicles across on the five-acre semi-rural residential block,” Dwyer continued. “Testing of some of the waste material revealed it was contaminated, with the presence of asbestos detected.”

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Environmental smack-down from the skies

Deployment of the drones to capture damning video of the illegal dumping marked a victory for the brushed-off NSW EPA. It may also serve as an example for other administrations and non-governmental organizations in battling repeat, often unabashed acts of pollution to follow.

In the Australian case, the businessman and various accomplices hired to discard the illicit materials were too busy with their work to bother noticing the drones hovering above for considerable amounts of time while filming their dumping and dissimulation activity. That assumption of the NSW EPA’s toothlessness was all that was needed for the agency to get innovative in the sky, and bring the smug offenders crashing down to earth.

Its drone footage served dual purposes. Initially, it substantiated a request by NSW police for a warrant to search the property. And later, it became critical visual evidence securing the defendant’s conviction on charges of land pollution, failing to comply with a prevention notice, and carrying out unlicensed waste disposal. 

A complete search of the property turned up building and demolition waste, asbestos, around 1,500 old car tires, and at least 240 disused vehicles and vehicle parts.

In its ruling, the court fined the defendant a total of AUS $180,000 in pollution offenses, and $90,000 to reimburse the NSW EPA for its legal fees. That latter sum was also intended to cover costs of the agency’s investigation, including its numerous, case-busting drone flights.

Photos and video: New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency

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