AN Orange winemaker has been fined $35,000 in penalties and court costs after he was found guilty of emptying toxic chemicals into a drain.
Rex Nunzio D’Aquino pleaded guilty in Orange Local Court to a charge of polluting waters after he instructed an employee to empty 21 1000-litre drums into a drain leading from the helipad at Highland Heritage Estate to Summer Hill Creek.
The drums contained remnants of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on cotton crops, which is harmful to wildlife.
Environmental Protection Authority prosecutor Daniel Zanello said the offence was in the lower level of seriousness, however D’Aquino had known the drums had previously contained the chemicals and failed to read the label warnings.
“Measures could have been taken but were not taken,” he told the court.
However, defence solicitor Rick O’Gorman-Hughes said D’Aquino had completed a course in hazardous chemicals and had implemented a policy within his business. He also argued a paddock separated the drain from Summer Hill Creek and D’Aquino had complied with EPA requirements to clean the site.
In a letter to the court, D’Aquino called the incident a “costly mistake, which will not be repeated”.
D’Aquino bought 39 drums at auction four years ago with the intention of having them cleaned and used as alcohol storage or transport vessels.
But the odour could not be removed from one of the drums, so they were stored outside where some collected rainwater.
According to the agreed facts, D’Aquino believed the drums contained rainwater and instructed staff to empty them into the drain, despite one employee noticing a green-yellow tinge and suggesting the contents be buried instead.
A member of the public reported the incident to the EPA, which visited the following day.
The highest levels of chemicals in soil samples taken from the drain were 1000 times the allowed threshold in restricted building waste.
Magistrate Terry Lucas fined D’Aquino $15,000 and ordered him to pay $20,000 in professional costs.