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Rainbow Beach oil spill accident goes to court

DELICATE: The Cooloola Coast wetland environment, with Rainbow Beach on the right, was the setting for a major environmental court case in Gympie this week.
DELICATE: The Cooloola Coast wetland environment, with Rainbow Beach on the right, was the setting for a major environmental court case in Gympie this week. Google Earth Engine

AN ACCIDENTAL oil discharge at Rainbow Beach has had major consequences for a Rainbow Beach mechanical business, after one of its principals appeared in Gympie Magistrates Court this week.

Wayne Robert Hayes faces a fine and costs totalling well over $70,000, not counting the expense of a defence led by prominent Queensland environmental lawyer, Ralph Devlin QC.

Mr Hayes' penalty also does not include the cost of a planned new purpose-built vehicle repair area, including bunding and grease traps to prevent any future discharges into a neighbouring wetland area, owned by Gympie Regional Council.

Hayes pleaded guilty in a council prosecution on Thursday over a breach of environmental law on January 28.

The court was told the breach involved the unintentional discharge of workshop chemicals including oil, grease and coolant, after heavy rain washed them from a concrete pad on which vehicle repair and maintenance work had been carried out for some time.

The court was told drainage from the concrete apron area had not included necessary grease traps.

The downpour had caused drainage inspection hatches to be blown open and had resulted in a discharge of the accumulated waste into the neighbouring council property.

The court-imposed fine of $13,000 is only a small fraction of the costs now faced or already paid by the long running local business.

The court was told the firm had already paid $33,000 for site clean-up and restoration costs for the affected council land and $22,500 for an Environmental Management Plan.

Hayes was also ordered to pay $2750 for professional costs and $92.90 court fees.

None of those costs include construction of the promised new repair and maintenance infrastructure.

The court was told Hayes operated the business in partnership with his brother Dean William Hayes, who had also initially faced a charge, since withdrawn.

Mr Devlin and prosecuting attorney, Keith Wylie (appearing for the council) told the court agreed facts were that waste materials including engine coolant, oil and grease had accumulated on the concrete surface over time and had entered a drainage system which did not include required grease traps. The system had contained the contaminants and a day of particularly high rainfall had led to a discharge when an inspection point burst open and contaminants had spilled.

The court was told the firm had since undertaken to work in an enclosed vehicle washdown area where oils would be contained and go to a grease trap.

No conviction was recorded.

Topics:  cooloola coast enviironment gympie court rainbow beach tin can bay

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