Two men plead guilty to dumping toxic waste that killed marine life on Capricorn coast

A judge gave a man a suspended jail sentence and another fine for throwing more than a dozen 44-gallon barrels of paint thinner in the wetlands and bush of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast, killing marine life.

In 2019, nine drums were found in the Corio Bay Fish Habitat Reserve Road wetland in Farnborough, along with four more in the bush near Iwasaki Road in Bangalee.

“The drums of both sites had their lids removed or were pierced and their contents escaped,” said magistrate Philippa Beckinsale.

Magistrate Beckinsale sentenced the main offender Jason Lee Atkins to three months in prison, suspended for 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay investigative fees of $ 11,860 and legal fees of $ 750.

The other man, Eric Karl Davis, was ordered to pay a fine of $ 9,000 as well as court costs of $ 750.

Both men had convictions recorded at Rockhampton Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard that Davis was not present for the spill and did not cause environmental damage, but knowingly facilitated the crime.

Magistrate Beckinsale said investigations at the Farnborough site found the waste had created localized concentrations of xylenes and hydrocarbons in the water for several hours that were several times higher than toxicity guidelines.

But further investigations showed that the environmental impact on the Bangalee site was minimal.

At the time, the illegal dumping triggered a temporary health warning and the public was asked to avoid swimming or consuming seafood caught from the tidal lagoon.

The Ministry of Environment and Science said nine poisonous barrels were found in one lagoon and four in the bush at another location.(Provided)

Pleas show remorse, judge says

The two men were prosecuted by the Ministry of Environment and Science and both were convicted of a range of charges, including illegal dumping of waste and carrying out an environmentally relevant activity without permission.

The offense took place between October and November 2019.

The court heard Davis making arrangements with his Yeppoon employer, NMQ Engineering, to collect the waste.

A man wearing a mask and sunglasses walks out of court.
Jason Lee Atkins leaving the Rockhampton courthouse.(ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

Atkins, who at the time was a painter, was going to store it and use it.

Yeppoon NMQ Engineering paid Davis $ 1,000 in cash to remove the drums.

“[Davis’s] the actions relating to the organization of the collection and disposal of drums were born out of a desire to impress this employer, ”declared magistrate Beckinsale.

She said her conviction should reflect the seriousness of the offense, deterrence and denunciation, as well as balance the financial prospects of the two men.

Magistrate Beckinsale said she was considering fines and jail time, but fines for Atkins were reportedly in the order of $ 30,000.

Atkins did not have a lawyer present and represented himself.

At a previous court hearing, he told Magistrate Beckinsale he couldn’t afford such a costly fine.

Magistrate Beckinsale also reviewed Davis’ financial outlook as he remained in custody for an unrelated crime.

She said both men showed remorse for their actions by pleading guilty.

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