Demo contractor in ECan waste probe
Environment Canterbury is investigating a Christchurch contractor for allegedly burying demolition waste on 13 cleared residential sections.
Companies found guilty of the practice could face millions of dollars in fines if prosecuted for the dumping, which is understood to be several cubic metres of waste in each case.
Demolition contractors must follow disposal guidelines, including paying any dumping fees at approved waste facilities, and there are strict requirements around the treatment of hazardous materials such as asbestos.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) confirmed buried waste had been found and removed at four properties, and another nine addresses were being investigated with ground-penetrating radar.
All 13 sites related to one "alleged offender", said project manager waste and environmental management team, Carl Diamond.
Paul Lindsay - sole director of limited liability companies Lindsay Builders and Bobcats R Us - told The Press he was co-operating with ECan on a series of underground tests.
He initially denied his companies had been burying demolition waste, but then backtracked:
"We've just been doing a whole bunch of ECan stuff to test it and what you're saying is not quite true ... they found very little."
Asked if his company had not been dumping any material, he said:
"No, I haven't said that and we haven't proved it either. So we don't know exactly what the thing is."
The Press spoke to three homeowners who confirmed their houses were demolished by Lindsay Builders or Bobcats R Us.
They were later contacted by ECan and told buried demolition waste had to be removed from their land.
One homeowner was in the process of selling his Burwood property when he took the call.
"[It was] the day the clients bought the section," he said.
"We were all up in arms, of course. You don't expect things like this.
"It's all cleaned up now."
Another resident learned from her lawyer that building material had been buried on her property:
"She said they had to go back [to remove the waste]. ECan have been back. They've cleaned it up."
Diamond said the offender was working "very proactively" with ECan to fix the problem.
"It's been quite a large effort to get everything back to the way it should have been in the first place.
"Where we found any demolition waste the land's been remediated back to its state prior to the burial."
No hazardous substances had been found at the four confirmed sites, he said.
"There have been a couple of containers found that could have at some point had hazardous substances in them but they looked as though they'd been cleaned."
ECan had sought explanation from the company over why it was burying building materials on site, Diamond said.
"We have some statements from the alleged offender but that's all things to be considered down the track."
He would not confirm the identity of the alleged offender.
Demolition and Asbestos Association president Alan Edge said news of the investigation had not gone down well in the industry.
"The other demolition contractors, us guys that have been around for a long time, are pretty p..... off about it.
"Dumping full stop on site is a no-no. It's just crazy."
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said all demolition material should be disposed of appropriately.
"If people are concerned that
there is a potential for serious harm because of the nature of the material or how it is being disposed of, they should let the ministry know."
An ECan decision on punishment for the offender was several weeks away, Diamond said.
"There could be a recommendation for prosecution.
"It might not necessarily be towards one person or one company."
Individuals can be fined up to $300,000 and companies $600,000 per offence if prosecuted.
A lesser fine could be imposed by ECan instead, Diamond said, but offenders also run the risk of being indefinitely suspended from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's (Cera) accredited contractor list and being blacklisted by private insurance companies.
A Cera spokesman said the authority was aware of ECan's investigation and if any action was taken, would consider if it affected accreditation.