Licences and approvals

Melbourne Regional Landfill (Cleanaway) works approval


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On 24 March 2017, Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) issued works approval 138994 (PDF 990KB) to Landfill Operations P/L to extend its Melbourne Regional Landfill at Ravenhall

On 8 June 2017 the Minister for Planning published his decision on planning permit application PA2016/5118, made by Landfill Operations for its proposed extension to the Melbourne Regional Landfill. The planning permit and a fact sheet can be viewed and downloaded from the planning section of  the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website.

A joint planning hearing and section 20B community conference was held over 18 days in September and October 2016 in Melbourne and Caroline Springs, administered by Planning Panels Victoria.

In accordance with section 20B(4) of the Environment Protection Act 1970, EPA considered the discussions, resolutions and recommendations from the conference in its assessment of the works approval application. At the time EPA made its decision on the works approval application, the panel report was confidential, but it is now publicly available (PDF).

VCAT to review the works approval decision

EPA’s decision to issue works approval 138994 is being reviewed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

On 2 June 2017, VCAT ordered EPA to place a copy of all application documents provided to EPA by the applicants on EPA’s ‘Ravenhall landfill’ website. In compliance with that order, please see the VCAT application documents.

EPA notes that:

  1. the VCAT hearing process is established and controlled by VCAT – EPA does not set timeframes or requirements for VCAT reviews. Information about the process is on VCAT’s website:
  2. as the matter is now before VCAT, EPA cannot comment on the works approval.

VCAT application documents

In accordance with Order 7 of VCAT Orders dated 2 June 2017, EPA publishes the following application materials provided by the applicants pursuant to Order 6:

Brimbank City Council

Landfill Operations P/L

Note that Attachments 5 and 6 are supplemental to Landfill Operations’ works approval application documents available at Assessment process for Melbourne Regional Landfill and Works approval application for Melbourne Regional Landfill.

Melton City Council

Middle Hopkings Investments P/L

Mount Atkinson Holdings P/L

Stop the Tip

The works approval issued by EPA

The works approval issued to Landfill Operations is for a smaller landfill than applied for, with a shorter lifespan. It also requires that the secures a planning permit from the Minister for Planning.

The works approval:

  • limits the landfill to seven cells in the south portion
  • limits the land area to 96 hectares, with 23 million cubic metres of airspace
  • allows space for 13 years of landfilling (from 2025 to 2038) – based on projected landfilling rates.

The works approval allows for approximately half of the proposal put forward by Cleanaway and is subject to the proposal securing a planning permit from the Minister for Planning.

The decision followed 13 months of extensive engagement and consultation with community and considered the expert views of specialist EPA staff, the expert views of staff at referral agencies and waste groups, and over 3900 public submissions.

Proposed and approved extension

MRL map

For a summary of the works approval assessment, read Melbourne Regional Landfill works approval decision (publication 1653).

For a comprehensive outline of the assessment, read the works approval assessment report (PDF 49MB – very large file).

If you object to the issuing of the works approval or its conditions, you may have the decision reviewed by applying in writing within 21 days of the date of issue to:

Registrar, Planning and Environment Division
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
7th Floor, 55 King Street, Melbourne

An application fee may be applicable when lodging an appeal with VCAT. Contact VCAT on 03 9628 9777 for further details on fees associated with an appeal. A copy of the appeal should also be forwarded, within seven days of lodgement, to:

Manager, Development Assessments Unit
Environment Protection Authority Victoria
GPO Box 4395, Melbourne 3001

Important issues and how EPA assessed them

Next steps

  • The works approval is now dependent on the outcome of the VCAT review.
  • The relevant conditions in the works approval have to be met before and during the construction of each landfill cell and leachate pond.
  • Landfill Operations must get an EPA licence to begin disposing of waste into the proposed cells. A new licence or licence amendment is needed each time the company wants to begin filling a new cell or if it wants to change any aspect of its operations.
  • Landfill Operations will need to provide the necessary financial assurance sum in accordance with EPA guidelines and as agreed with EPA before it can dispose of any waste.

How can the community stay informed?

Cleanaway (the owner of Landfill Operations) has established a community reference group for Melbourne Regional Landfill. The aims of the independently facilitated group are to:

  • provide an opportunity for community members to raise any concerns they may have
  • foster community understanding and confidence in the operation of the landfill by accessing information such as monitoring data, and attending presentations and site tours
  • develop an understanding of Cleanaway’s current and future priorities regarding the ongoing operation of the site.

Documents from the community reference group, including minutes and agendas, will be uploaded to a page on Cleanaway’s website.

Current and future statutory documents (such as licences) and any regulatory activities (such as annual performance statements) relating to the Melbourne Regional Landfill will be made available on EPA’s website. If Landfill Operations applies for a licence amendment or a works approval in the future, EPA will publicise the applications and consult with the community.

Assessment

EPA’s assessment of Landfill Operations’ works approval application found that a smaller landfill restricted to the South Portion of the site:

  • is not expected to negatively impact on the health of those living or working near the landfill
  • is suitably located
  • meets international landfill best-practice standards
  • is not expected to cause pollution
  • complies with the relevant government landfill and environmental guidelines and policies.

Read about the assessment process.

What was proposed in the works approval application?

The application proposed the extension of the existing landfill by using voids produced from ongoing Boral quarrying operations. It would feature the following:

  • creation of 16 new landfill cells in two sections (north and south portions), with only one cell to be active at a time
  • additional landfill area of 210 hectares with 53 million cubic metres of airspace (the space to be filled with waste)
  • landfill to continue to receive the same type of waste it currently receives
  • space for 30 years of landfilling (from 2025 to 2055).

Read about the works approval application.

 

Q&A on the MRL works approval + Expand all Collapse all

  • What is a works approval?

    A works approval is a statutory approval issued by EPA. It permits, subject to certain conditions, the construction of a plant (such as an industrial facility or a landfill), installation of equipment or modification of a process.

    Approval is required for industrial and waste management works that may result in any of the following:

    • discharge of waste into the environment (air, water or land)
    • an increase in, or alteration to, an existing discharge
    • a change in the way waste is treated or stored.
  • What was in Cleanaway’s works approval application?

    EPA received a works approval application from Landfill Operations P/L (Cleanaway) for the Melbourne Regional Landfill (MRL) on 29 February 2016, which was formally accepted on 13 May 2016. The proposal sought to extend the existing landfill by using the void resulting from ongoing quarrying operations at the site.

    The existing EPA-licensed landfill facility has 7–10 years of remaining capacity and the extension applied for proposed to commence landfilling in approximately eight years (2025). The extension was to operate for a 30-year period to 2055.

    The proposed activities related to:

    • creation of 16 new landfill cells in two portions (north and south), with only one cell to be active at a time
    • additional landfill area of 210 hectares with 53 million cubic metres of airspace (the space to be filled with waste)
    • landfill to continue to receive the same type of waste it currently receives and manages
    • space for 30 years of landfilling (from 2025 to 2055).
  • What wastes were proposed to be disposed of?

    The proposed extension would receive the same waste types as the existing landfill, including:

    • putrescible waste
    • non-putrescible waste (solid and inert waste)
    • tyres shredded into pieces less than 250mm
    • category C (low-level) contaminated soil.

    It was proposed that the extension to the MRL would continue to not accept asbestos. Historically, asbestos was permitted to be disposed of at the existing landfill when it was owned and operated by Boral Recycling P/L.

  • What was EPA’s decision on the works approval?

    The works approval EPA has issued is for a smaller landfill than was applied for by Cleanaway, with a shorter lifespan. The approval:

    • limits the landfill to the seven additional cells in the south portion only
    • grants total additional landfill area of 96 hectares, with 23 million cubic metres of airspace (the space to be filled with waste)
    • grants space for 13 years of landfilling (from 2025 to 2038), based on projected landfilling rates.

    The work approval is subject to a series of conditions. Some conditions have to be completed prior to construction; others will extend through the lifetime of the landfill’s operation. The conditions include:

    • obtaining and holding a valid planning permit
    • the provision of detailed design documents for written approval prior to commencement of any construction
    • the inclusion of the identified additional design and management measures within the final designs
    • installation of key monitoring and management features such as groundwater monitoring wells, landfill gas collection systems and litter fencing
    • the development and implementation of odour, groundwater, surface water and landfill gas monitoring and management plans
    • engagement of an environmental auditor before the construction of and depositing of waste in any new landfill cell or the leachate collection pond, to independently verify the quality of the construction.
  • How did EPA assess the proposal?

    EPA comprehensively examined the application in line with the Environment Protection Act 1970 and took into account relevant state environment protection policies and guidelines.

    EPA assessed the following key issues as relevant to Cleanaway’s works approval proposal:

    • human health
    • odour
    • noise
    • landfill gas generation and risk management
    • the potential for pollution of air, land, groundwater and surface water
    • compliance with the various waste and landfill policies and best-practice environmental management guidance
    • compliance with the environment protection principles of the Environment Protection Act
    • Cleanaway’s track record
    • water use
    • greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

    EPA also considered the expert views of referral agencies such as Sustainability Victoria, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melton City Council, Brimbank City Council and Metropolitan Waste Resource Recovery Group, as well as submissions from the community.

    In addition, EPA also considered:

    • recommendations from the joint planning panel hearing and 20B community conference
    • findings and recommendations of the Landfill Expert Advisory Panel that peer reviewed EPA’s technical assessments
    • independent reviews of odour modelling and stormwater management plans.
  • What did Cleanaway need to demonstrate in the works approval?

    Cleanaway was required to demonstrate to EPA (in consultation with referral agencies such as Sustainability Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services) that proposed landfill activities:

  • Why didn’t EPA approve the north portion?

    EPA did not grant a works approval for the north portion of the proposed landfill because:

    • the Victorian Government has not identified a need for more landfill space beyond 2046. The lifespan of the proposed landfill was until 2055, which is nine years more than the currently identified need. An approval to 2055 was therefore deemed unnecessary
    • Cleanaway could still apply for a works approval for the north portion in the future if a need is identified
    • the proposal for the north and south portions was assessed as not meeting a number of the environment protection principles in the Environment Protection Act.
    • not approving landfilling in the north portion leaves options open for future development of alternative waste treatment technologies and compliance with future waste policies and/or waste management practice or market changes
    • the operation and rehabilitation processes proposed for the north portion would not work with a smaller area and a shorter lifespan (to 2046) of the landfill, and would need to be substantially redesigned.
  • Did EPA take compliance history into account when making its decision?

    EPA has the power to refuse a works approval application under the Environment Protection Act if the corporation or anyone managing the corporation has committed relevant offences in the 10 years prior to making a works approval application.

    Transpacific Cleanaway (a predecessor of Cleanaway) was convicted of a relevant offence for deposition of unlicensed waste at the Tullamarine landfill in 2008. Since then, there has been no repeat offence at any of its Victoria or Australian landfills.

    While licence compliance issues at MRL have been identified, it has not been convicted of an offence and meets the ‘fit and proper person’ requirements of the Environment Protection Act.

    Since taking over MRL, Cleanaway has demonstrated a commitment to improving environmental performance.

    EPA assessments show that the landfill is generally well managed; however, EPA will continue to ensure it complies with its EPA licence requirements through various activities such as pollution report response and site inspections.

  • How did EPA review the 3900+ submissions?

    The review of submissions identified key community concerns for EPA consideration. In some cases, EPA asked Cleanaway for extra information about concerns before a final decision was made.

    All submissions were given equal consideration by EPA during our assessment of the works approval application.

  • How did EPA consider odour in its assessment? Why did EPA take a different approach from that of Cleanaway?

    Odour is a common complaint from communities living near landfills. Concern about odour impacts was the top issue raised by the community during the works approval consultation process.

    Since January 2015 EPA has received 450 odour pollution reports about the existing MRL. To address this, EPA conducted three separate odour monitoring exercises in the surrounding area in 2014–2016, which involved 760 odour tests. Despite the high number of community odour reports, EPA’s odour investigations rarely identified landfill odours in residential areas. More information about EPA’s odour monitoring of MRL is available on our Ravenhall landfill page.

    The application from Cleanaway used odour modelling to assess potential odour impacts. This predicted that, in most cases, there would be low or very low risk of odour impacts affecting populations close to the landfill.

    Odour modelling is complex and involves a high degree of uncertainty. Given this, and the disparity between modelling results and observations, EPA also considered actual observations in assessing odour risks. This involved conducting an odour risk assessment based on field observations of odour from the current landfill and considerations of best-practice odour controls proposed.  

    This approach was more likely to represent future odour emissions. It also more realistically shows the occasional impact of odour experienced by people living and working near landfills.

    EPA’s risk assessment concluded that:

    • the proposal complies with the SEPP (AQM) odour requirements
    • odour can be suitably managed with the use of best-practice odour controls and suitable buffer separation distances
    • there was a low-to-medium risk of odour impacts occurring, compared with the low risk suggested by the odour modelling in the application.

    To manage potential odour issues Cleanaway has proposed to develop and implement an odour management and monitoring plan. This is in addition to the implementation of other best-practice operational practices in reducing odour generation, such as:

    • reducing the size of the active tip face where waste is deposited
    • covering the tip face with clean material at the end of each day.
  • What is the buffer distance around the site?

    Buffer distances are a contingency tool to manage potential risk and protect the amenity of sensitive users under non-routine or upset conditions.

    EPA’s Landfill BPEM says buffer distances should be 500 m from buildings and structures of sensitive use.

    A 500 m landfill gas buffer should also be maintained to protect sensitive uses from potential subsurface migration of landfill gas.  Future reductions in this distance may be possible but would require additional data and the completion of a satisfactory landfill gas risk assessment.

    Buffers can apply inside or outside scheduled premises.

    Based on odour complaints, EPA surveillance works and meteorology data, EPA recommended to the Melbourne Regional Landfill Extension Planning Panel a minimum of a 1.5 km odour and amenity buffer on the Caroline Springs (north) side of the landfill and a 1 km buffer on the Mount Alexander side of the site.

    EPA data has supported a larger buffer than usual in this case.

  • How much money is being set aside by Cleanaway in its financial assurance? What guarantees are there that the local community won’t have to pay for any remedial clean-up costs?

    Cleanaway will need to provide the necessary financial assurance sum, calculated in accordance with EPA guidelines.

    This assurance guarantees that the costs of site remediation, site closure and post-closure liabilities are not borne by the state in the event that Cleanaway cannot remediate or close the site. The financial assurance can be drawn on after EPA incurs cleanup costs. To date, EPA has not incurred cleanup costs for any landfill.

    EPA recently updated its guidance on the calculation of financial assurance (publication 1596) and the types of financial assurance (publication 1595) that EPA may accept. The financial assurance currently held by EPA for the MRL was calculated based on the updated guidelines.

    The amount of financial assurance held by EPA is considered by Cleanaway to be commercially sensitive information and cannot be disclosed.

    There is also a rehabilitation bond held by the Department of Economics, Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources for stabilising and landscaping the quarry in the event that the landfill does not fill the entire quarry void.

  • How is landfilling considered best practice when it’s at the bottom of the waste hierarchy?

    Victorian waste policy recognises that, while disposal to landfill is a last resort, landfills are an important part of waste management infrastructure.

    There is a continual evolution in the design and operation of landfills that will be reflected in best-practice standards. Landfill requirements have been progressively introduced to Victorian landfills since 2001 and have been strengthened:

    • to address landfill gas monitoring and management requirements
    • to provide greater clarification on landfill liner quality, testing requirements, construction quality assurance and construction quality control requirements for design and construction of landfills
    • with input from world-leading practitioners.

    EPA assessed this application against relevant best practice; in this case, the Landfill BPEM (Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills, publication 788). The Landfill BPEM is considered to be the most stringent set of landfilling guidelines in Australia.

    The Landfill BPEM is the source document for best-practice environmental management measures for landfills. It gives direction on the best-practice siting, design, operation, performance and rehabilitation standards for landfills in Victoria, taking into account the risk they pose to the environment, and it provides a guide for the measures required to meet legislative objectives.

    The Landfill BPEM was developed by EPA Victoria with a working group including landfill experts from the landfill industry, environmental audit community, academics and regulators who considered landfill best practice from Victoria, interstate and internationally. First published in 2001, it has been strengthened in 2010, 2014 and 2015 and sets out minimum standards that must be achieved.

  • How is the existing MRL considered best practice and compliant?

    The existing landfill must adhere to all EPA licence conditions and environmental policies that set out minimum design, operational and management requirements for landfills. 

    The site must comply with the Landfill BPEM (Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills, publication 788), which is the source document for best-practice environmental management measures for landfills. The requirements of the most recent release of the Landfill BPEM must be used during the design and construction of all landfill cells.

    The EPA licence holder must also prepare and implement an environmental monitoring program for the landfill that is verified by an environmental auditor.

  • Health is a concern of many local residents – what reassurances can the EPA give that their health won’t be affected by the proposals?

    The works approval application was referred to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as required under the Environment Protection Act 1970.

    DHHS did not object to the proposed landfill on human health grounds, but highlighted that EPA should ensure certain requirements, such as buffer distances, are met.

    Consideration was also given to the findings of a November 2016 independent literature review commissioned by EPA and DHHS. This provided an up-to-date understanding of research on the potential risks to human health from air emissions from non-hazardous waste landfills. The review’s key conclusion showed that living near a non-hazardous waste landfill was not associated with any adverse health effects. The review also said that some gases and compounds may, however, be odorous and can affect the wellbeing of the local community.

    It should be noted that the MRL is not a ‘hazardous waste landfill’. It currently does not, nor will it, accept waste outside these categories:

    • putrescible waste
    • non-putrescible waste (solid and inert waste)
    • tyres shredded into pieces smaller than 250 mm
    • category C (low-level) contaminated soil.

    The landfill will not accept asbestos or medical wastes.

  • Why is a planning permit required?

    A planning permit is required under the Melton Planning Scheme for both the use and development of the landfill. Specifically, in relation to the proposed extension of the landfill, planning permission is required to:

    • use the land for refuse disposal
    • construct a building and construct or carry out works
    • remove vegetation, including native vegetation.

    Questions relating to the planning permit application should be directed to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) on 1800 789 386 or visit the department’s Ravenhall landfill expansion page.

  • When will the Planning Minister make a decision on the permit?

    Cleanaway’s proposal needs both planning permit approval and EPA works approval. The planning permit application is under consideration by the Minister for Planning.

Page last updated on 30 Aug 2017