Council dumps garbos after police and EPA raids

By Julian Bajkowski and Paul Hemsley

Two waste management companies in Victoria have been raided by police and the state’s environmental regulator following a six month investigation across three local governments over “suspected illegal activity with regard to a number of landfills and transfer stations in Gippsland.”

The Environment Protection Authority of Victoria said today that raids on Gippsland Waste Services in Trafalgar and Towards Zero in Sale had resulted in documents being seized “as part of an ongoing joint investigation into alleged breaches against both the Environment Protection Act and Crimes Act.”

According to Wellington Council’s website, Towards Zero is the company contracted to manage its waste collection, landfill and transfer station.

It is believed that Gippsland Waste Services is a sub-contractor to Towards Zero. The extent of the allegations against one or both of the companies is yet to be revealed.

East Gippsland Shire Council said it had now junked its contract with Gippsland Waste Services.

Steve Kozlowski, East Gippsland’s chief executive, said Shire officers had been “assisting authorities with a range of investigations over recent weeks” and “terminated the contract with Gippsland Waste Services due to a number of contractual irregularities”.

“Prior to the recent action being undertaken, the Shire has worked to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place for landfill operations to continue as usual throughout the Shire,” Mr Kozlowski said.

The raids have also prompted reassurances from Wellington Shire’s chief executive, David Morcom, that rubbish will still be collected despite the police swoop.

“I would like to assure Wellington Shire residents that collection services will continue as normal,” Mr Morcomb said.

“Council officers have for some time assisted the EPA with their enquiries regarding Gippsland Waste Services and we continue to work with them as their investigation progresses.”

Police and regulatory against council contractors puts local governments in a difficult position because of the health and environmental risks associated with rubbish piling up if it is not collected.

Mr Morcomb expressed gratitude to EPA for allowing council to be in a potion where normal services could continue despite the action, but said he could not comment further due for legal and contractual reasons.

Towards Zero has so far declined to comment.

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