THE man behind Truegain, Robert Pullinger, was by turns tearful and combative in the Land and Environment Court on Thursday, revealing he is bankrupt and suffering depression.
Pullinger is facing criminal charges brought by the state's environmental watchdog for allegedly not complying with clean up and prohibition notices at the heavily contaminated former waste oil refinery that operated at Rutherford for decades.
Representing himself, Pullinger broke down describing how he is on the pension and claims to have lost everything.
"I don't have the money and the government gave me no assistance whatsoever," he said.
The court heard the EPA has spent more than $12 million containing pollution at the abandoned plant and is in the process of acquiring the heavily contaminated site under compulsory acquisition laws so it can be remediated.
The site has a history of flooding in heavy rain and several surrounding creeks are polluted with toxic firefighting foam chemicals and off limits for drinking and swimming.
"I spent everything that I could raise, that was a few million dollars or a couple of million dollars, trying to do what the EPA asked but as soon as rains came down again that would just blow the whole thing out," Pullinger said.
"I tried to get a grant from the government where I could actually work and treat all of this water and was knocked back for $1.5 million. When you look at how much the EPA has spent and is going to spend, I'm just not in that financial position."
Justice Rachel Pepper raised concerns that successful civil proceedings brought by the EPA against Pullinger, in an effort for the watchdog to recover clean-up costs at the site, were heard before the criminal matter.
She said as Pullinger had no legal representation and gave written and oral evidence in the civil matter, she needed to ensure he would not be disadvantaged in the criminal case.
"Theses are criminal proceedings Mr Pullinger, you haven't entered a plea, so the court is going to deal with this as if it's a not guilty plea and it will be a full trial," she said.
"I am concerned because if you are found guilty then you will be convicted of criminal offences, you will also be subject to significant cost liability."
Justice Pepper adjourned the matter to try and find a lawyer to represent Pullinger pro bono.
Pullinger described the process as "bloody frustrating".
"I am now a pensioner, I've been diagnosed with depression and I'm going through that process as well," he said.
"It's certainly been hard on me and my family, just trying to do what I can to honour what the EPA wanted, but as long as it keeps raining, I didn't have $12 million which the EPA has spent so far."
IN THE NEWS:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.