The former owner of the troubled Truegain site near Maitland has been ordered to pay more than $1.2 million towards clean-up costs incurred by the state's environmental watchdog.
The NSW Land and Environment Court last Thursday ruled that Robert Pullinger would have to pay the NSW Environment Protection Authority, which has been managing contamination at the site in the Rutherford industrial estate since 2018.
Mr Pullinger has been dodging financial responsibility, claiming he has run out of money.
An investigation by the Newcastle Herald, which began in 2018, revealed that Truegain - also known as Australian Waste Oil Refineries - secretly dumped millions of litres of toxic waste into nearby creeks and onto the ground over a span of decades. Dozens of former employees told of the company's appalling environmental practices.
The money Mr Pullinger was last week ordered to pay would cover costs the EPA has faced for ongoing storm water and waste water clean-up and management at the site, as well as legal costs and interest.
"This is a significant result and it sends a message that if you pollute you will be pursued and made to pay," EPA CEO Tracy Mackey said.
"I want to assure the community that the EPA will continue to use all means at our disposal to pursue this owner and hold him accountable.
"We have other prosecutions against Mr Pullinger, which are still before the court."
The EPA suspended Truegain's environmental protection licence in 2016 and revoked it in 2018. The company has gone into liquidation.
Mr Pullinger was convicted and fined this year for providing false information to the EPA and failing to comply with statutory notices that required him to provide information.
The EPA has previously issued 18 fines to Truegain and successfully prosecuted the company twice in the Land and Environment Court.
The Newcastle Herald reported last month that the NSW government predicted it would be forced to spend $20 million to clean up the legacy of contamination at the Truegain site.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, who visited the Rutherford property last year, has proposed changes to laws in order to give the EPA greater powers to pursue polluters - including allowing the agency to go after current and former company directors, managers and related companies for alleged offences.
The Truegain case has been a key catalyst for the proposed law changes.
Meanwhile, the EPA is continuing to monitor the Kyle Street property by way of inspections and CCTV.
The agency said a surface water interception, storage and disposal system had been installed to reduce the risk of discharge.
The government is also working on a long-term solution for the site.
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