How “Clean” is that Free Fill? // Getex
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How “Clean” is that Free Fill?

NSW land owners are warned to be cautious accepting imported fill, after the disappearance of 17,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated waste from a Sydney development site (ABC News).

Filling your land with contaminated waste could risk your family’s health, permanently devalue your land, and cost you millions of dollars in clean up costs.
Such is an example of a 22-hectare family property on the NSW Central Coast, where officials estimate that thousands of tonnes of the waste has contaminated their land, as reported by 7 News last month.

Free fill material brought onto a residential property, heavily contaminated with building waste.So how can you be sure that the imported fill you are receiving is safe for your use?

Here are four key things you need to know:

1. There is no such thing as “clean” fill.
In the environmental and waste industry there is no such thing as ‘clean fill’. The term simply does not exist. So what are you actually looking for? Well, this depends on your use. There are three types of safe imported fill:  

TYPE 1: Virgin Excavated Natural Material (VENM)

VENM is the ‘untouched’ form of natural material available. It is defined by the POEO Act (1997) as ‘natural material (such as clay, gravel, sand, soil or rock fines):

(a) that has been excavated or quarried from areas that are not contaminated with manufactured chemicals, or with process residues, as a result of industrial, commercial, mining or agricultural activities and

(b) that does not contain any sulfidic ores or soils or any other waste

and includes excavated natural material that meets such criteria for virgin excavated natural material as may be approved for the time being pursuant to an EPA Gazettal notice.’  

TYPE 2: Certified Resource recovery material (e.g. Excavated Natural Material (ENM))

Some wastes on sites that have been tested and inspected are able to be safely re-used as fill for certain uses. This is provided that the re-use is genuine (not using as a means of waste disposal), its use is considered beneficial, and it will not cause harm to human health or the environment. An example of a certified resource recovery material is Excavated Natural Material (ENM).  

TYPE 3: Certified topsoil for landscape and garden

Some organic waste materials are processed for specific re-uses, thus reducing the amount of organic material going into landfill whilst also benefiting the land with its rich organic properties. Some examples of fill developed from processed organic waste include topsoil, mulch, soil conditioner, compost, potting mix and wood chips. Before accepting this type of fill, is important that you ensure the recycled waste complies with NSW regulations as there may be limits on application uses.  

2. What is acceptable fill for one use may not be deemed acceptable for another.

Depending on what you are planning to use fill for will determine what type of fill is deemed as safe for human health and the environment. It is important to recognize that what is considered safe for commercial use may not be safe for residential use.  

3. If the deal sounds too good to be true, then it very likely is.

Free or cheap fill is extremely likely to be contaminated waste. When looking for quality fill, there are some ways you can ensure what you are receiving is legal and safe for your intended use. The EPA provides some for making sure that you do not end up receiving dodgy fill. These include ensuring you have council approval, keeping copies of all records you receive from the supplier and supervising the delivery. Dishonest operators can offer quality fill but deliver soil full of contaminated waste such as asbestos, building waste and chemicals. They are also known to dump extra waste, leaving you with only more to have to clean up. Cleaning up contaminated fill can be extremely expensive. Getex’s consultants are able to ensure your supplier is trustworthy by providing a full report of the prospective fill, track the trucks and supervise the delivery to ensure that what is tested and approved is what you are actually receiving.

4. Make sure that the fill has the relevant documentation

At Getex, we know how important it is to ensure that your fill has relevant documentation including sampling, analysis and an inspection of the source site. We can investigate the fill site history to ensure that what you are receiving is contaminant-free soil. We ensure that the material to be received on site has been thoroughly assessed and that the analysis certificate is for the same material as is being delivered to you.

Getex tracks and supervises delivery to ensure the correct fill is supplied

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