Following the discovery of 75 asbestos-contaminated sites across Sydney and the biggest investigation probe in EPA history, new penalties have been officially introduced for environmental crimes. 

These measures include hefty fines, stronger EPA powers and a ‘name and shame’ file for perpetrators. To help builders stay compliant, we’ve listed the top 3 most common EPA fines we see in the industry, their updated penalties and strategies to avoid each one. 

Stop compliance issues before they happen.


1. Illegal dumping: penalties from $250,000 to $1M


Illegal dumping, especially of hazardous materials, has been a longstanding problem in NSW. Clean and contaminated fill have been found across the state along fire trails, under new builds, in residential parks and sensitive locations like schools. The cost of official soil removal, which increases if contamination is present, often drives this practice.

However, these overheads don’t match the risk of breaching new EPA laws. Small-scale illegal dumping can lead to fines up to $1 million for companies and $250,000 for individuals. Penalties are lower for on-the-spot fines and higher for offences classified as Tier 1 and 2. Then there’s the public ‘name and shame’ register that will negatively impact your credibility in the industry. 

Recommendation: always get soil, water and site materials officially classified before removing it from your site. This clarifies contamination levels and disposal costs, potentially saving you thousands in misclassification and compliance violations. Verify that your waste removalist is fully licensed and qualified, safeguarding your site’s reputation.

Make sure you're meet new NSW EPA requirements.

2. Dewatering Sites: $250,000 – $1M penalty


Dewatering residential and commercial sites is a complicated process that can lead to large fines from local Council, water providers and the NSW EPA. Issues often arise from inadequate geotechnical reports that fail to accurately gauge water table depths. This leads to unforeseen overflow when construction starts that is often pumped directly into stormwater drains. 

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act NSW (1997), fines for water pollution can be up to $1 million for corporations and $250,000 for individuals. The NSW EPA has also increased fines based on the severity of these cases, so illegal dewatering that causes ‘serious harm’ can see fines up to $10 million for companies and $2 million for individuals. 

Recommendation: thorough preparation is critical before the dewatering process begins. Before any excavation starts, install ground wells at different depths to test for contamination, chemicals, flow rate and recharge rate. Don’t let unplanned dewatering cost your thousands in fines and project delays.

3. Skipping DSI requirements: $1M – $10M penalty


Construction projects failing to manage identified on-site contamination face severe fines. This situation occurs when a Detailed Site Investigation (DSI) has recommended a Remediation Action Plan (RAP) that is not completed. For residential homes and commercial sites like childcare centres, exposure to hazardous materials like asbestos create serious risks to human health.  

New developments that have failed to implement remediation measures will not be granted an Occupancy Certificate (OC). This can lead to significant delays in project timelines and thousands of dollars in additional remediation costs. The EPA has also increased penalties based on the severity of negligence in these cases. For example, fines for Tier 1 offences (causing harm) have increased to $10 million for companies and $2 million for individuals, while Tier 2 (matters involving asbestos) have increased to $4 million and $2 million respectively. 

Recommendation: Partner with an experienced environmental firm that can help you navigate the DSI findings and ensure that remediation is carried out to meet industry standards, avoiding fines and project delays.

Don’t let compliance stop your project moving forward


NEO Consulting has helped hundreds of clients across NSW meet Council and EPA requirements. We support both residential and commercial projects to remain compliant throughout the construction process. We provide fast delivery on critical environmental services including Site Investigation reports, Waste Classification, Remediation Action Plans, Environmental Management Plans and more. If you’ve got questions on EPA requirements, speak to our team today.

Stay compliant with NEO Consulting.