The ACT government is considering enforcement action to force the owner of Hume rubbish stockpile to bring it back under control, Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones said on Tuesday.
Mr Jones was responding to questions from the Liberals' Andrew Wall, who questioned why the government had done nothing to control "what seems to be a rogue operator".
"There's three times more waste on that site than they could process in a year within their permit limits," Mr Wall said. "Why is it that the issue has been able to be drawn on for so long without any enforcement or intervention?"
Mr Jones said the stockpile, which contained roughly 30,000 cubic metre of waste, was operating outside the authorised limit of 10,000 tonnes.
The government had been working closely with the operator to get in place an environmental authorisation, but that could not be approved until a development application was approved for recycling equipment and other infrastructure on site.
"Unfortunately, its submission wasn't of sufficient quality to get that development application over the line and just before Christmas that application was refused by the planning authority," Mr Jones said. The operator was seeking a review of the decision and planned to re-submit in April.
Once a development application was approved, an environmental authorisation would give the government more control. The stockpile limit would be "substantially less than what is there now", and the operator would pay a bond to cover any clean-up of the site.
Mr Jones confirmed the government was negotiating a bond of about $250,000.
"We have been working extensively with the operator to try and get them to manage their operations in a more efficient manner in terms of its stockpiling and ensuring that material doesn't inadvertently leave site, either through wind such as dust or other material being blown off site, or if there is heavy rain activity .. any wash out coming off the site," he said.
One of the problems was the lack of a market for recycled timber, given it was contaminated with paint and metal. One of the only options was a "high-temperature burner".
Another complication was that Southern State also had sites in Goulburn and Collector, and "tends to move material off border and into NSW and back into the ACT".
The NSW sites were largely inactive because of action from NSW environmental authorities.
"Part of the recent growth in the stockpile in the ACT is that he's been unable, due to those compliance issues in NSW, to move some of his material interstate," Mr Jones said.
Mr Jones said it it would not be appropriate to have a stockpile any bigger than what is on site at the moment. But, "a bigger stockpile than we originally had in mind maybe possible, depending on how they treated it". He suggested "a substantially higher protective fence" or a shed on site to contain the pile.