The owner of a Fyshwick block says he spent $300,000 last year cleaning up a pile of glass dumped on his land by Garry Miller, the man whose daughter now holds him responsible for a massive glass dump on her property near Lake George.
The glass came from Canberra's yellow-topped recycling bins, and Mr Miller was paid to take it from the government's recycling centre at Hume. Mr Miller's Group 8 planned to use the glass "fines" - small glass rubble and dust - in pavers. But his daughter, Catlin Miller, said he dumped 900 tonnes on her Lake George land without permission in 2014, and never used it for pavers. Now, Adam Perry, of Access Recycling in Fyshwick, is accusing Mr Miller of dumping glass fines on his land at the end of 2015 and in early 2016, and abandoning the stockpile.
The ACT government has washed its hand of the glass problem, and has refused to even provide details of its contract with Remondis, which runs the recycling facility that paid Mr Miller to take the glass. The ACT government has also refused to detail its relationship, if any, with Mr Miller's Group 8, but now says it will provide some answers later this week.
But it is clear, through correspondence between Mr Miller and the ACT Environmental Protection Authority seen by The Canberra Times, that government officials were fully aware of Mr Miller's Fyshwick operation and had a role in approving and monitoring it.
Mr Perry said he was introduced to Mr Miller at an ACT government-hosted event. He did not know Mr Miller had run into trouble with the Yass council and local residents near Lake George over his stockpiles there. Previous reporting by The Canberra Times shows the ACT government was well aware of the Yass problems - with then environment minister Simon Corbell writing to residents in July 2015, in response to their complaints, touting Mr Miller's idea as an environmental win. He told them that each year the ACT's materials recovery facility generated 8000 tonnes of glass fines, which were generally sent to landfill, and the Group 8 proposal would divert them into usable products.
Mr Perry said he agreed in 2015 to rent a corner of his Fyshwick block to Mr Miller, but for just two truckloads of stockpiled material - about 50 tonnes - limiting the amount until Mr Miller had his paver business up and running.
"He was absolutely on a short leash," Mr Perry said. "I didn't want a big pile of glass on my site."
But in the lead-up to Christmas 2015, while Mr Perry was absent, Mr Miller stockpiled about 2100 tonnes over just three weeks, Mr Perry said.
"When I saw the massive pile he had made I was furious," he said.
"When I confronted him he told me he need the money - the dumping fee - to purchase the processing equipment needed to recycle it."
Mr Perry said he had spent about $30,000 in legal fees trying to force Mr Miller to deal with the glass. But given Mr Miller was bankrupt, and after neighbouring businesses complained about dust from the stockpile, Mr Perry decided to clean it up himself, sending it to landfill from June to August 2018 at a cost of almost $300,000. Federal records show Mr Miller became insolvent in June 2015 before he began stockpiling on Mr Perry's site. His bankruptcy was discharged on June 20 2018.
Mr Perry is at pains to say he doesn't hold the government nor Remondis responsible, blaming Mr Miller and acknowledging he could have been more careful himself.
But the government had a role in Mr Miller's project. Mr Miller sent his environmental management plan to the government for approval on November 9, 2015, just before he started dumping glass on the site, in an email to David Power.
In that email, Mr Miller said he planned to start operating on November 19, just 10 days later, but Remondis would "require formal notification that the ban placed on Group 8 by Des, back in December 2014, is lifted". This "ban" remains unexplained. Des is presumably environment protection officer Des Clayton, also CCed in the email.
Three months later, in February 2016, Mr Clayton wrote to Mr Miller about the stockpile, telling him that an inspection had found a stockpile of 22,000 cubic metres on the site, with considerable contamination among the glass. Mr Miller responded that he had taken 2160 tonnes of glass fines, so the stockpile would be less than 2500 cubic metres. He, too, was concerned about contamination, but that was the product Remondis had given him, he wrote to Mr Clayton.
Mr Miller's environmental management plan listed three owners of the business, including Mr Miller himself. It detailed plans to process 8500 tonnes of glass fines from Canberra's yellow bins in 2016, rising to 10,000, then 12,000. It proposed 40-60 tonnes a day would be taken to Fyshwick. But Mr Perry insists he only approved an initial 50 tonnes on his block.
Writing to Des Clayton in February 2016, Mr Miller said he wanted to be transparent and "compliant and adhere to all laws and regulations".
"If we are doing anything incorrectly I would fix it in a heartbeat," he said. He told Mr Clayton he had begun reducing and processing the stockpile that week, and had also started talking to Boral Asphalt about taking 5500 tonnes of glass sand each year for asphalt production at Mugga Lane.
"We are not stockpiling 'just' for the gate fee," he said. "Although many privateers in the recycling industry are causing a lot of headaches for EPA and ACT Government, we feel our operation with 18 months of R&D; behind us and our relationships on all levels within ACT Government, should provide us some credibility."
Mr Miller's daughter said her father was paid $38 a tonne to take the glass from Remondis. Mr Perry said he did not know how much Mr Miller was paid for the glass on his site, but it would have cost $140 a tonne for it to go to landfill.
Remondis will not return phone calls on the subject. Mr Miller has also declined to speak with The Canberra Times.