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Return to Wyndham landfill works approval application
EPA assessed the following issues as relevant to the Wyndham City Council works approval proposal:
- landfill gas generation and risk management
- the potential for pollution of air, land, groundwater and surface water
- human health
- consistency with the State-wide and Metropolitan Waste Resource Recovery Implementation Plans and section 50C of the EP Act
- compliance with the landfill waste management policies and best practice environmental management guidance
- environment protection principles of the EP Act
- the Wyndham landfill’s track record
- soil resources and land
- water use
- greenhouse gas emissions and climate change
- submission from stakeholders.
The key considerations are outlined below. All considerations are provided in the full works approval application assessment report (PDF 22MB – very large file).
Odour is often the most common complaint from communities living near landfills. Concern about odour was the top issue stakeholders raised during the works approval consultation process. EPA currently receives a relatively low number of pollution reports for this landfill, mainly because it is located away from residential areas, has large buffers surrounding the site and the operators have been keeping the waste tipping face as small as practicable.
The works approval application used odour modelling to assess potential odour of the proposed landfill extension. EPA reviewed this modelling, and also considered its own survey data and past odour reports relating to the existing landfill. Based on this, EPA considers that there is a medium to low risk of odour impacting people. In most scenarios, the modelling predicted low or very low risks of odour impacting affecting nearby residential areas.
EPA’s odour risk assessment concluded that:
- WCC’s works approval application complies with the State Environment Protection Policy (Air Quality Management)
- there are likely to be occasional odour impacts in the future and that this is an acceptable level of risk for a landfill using best practice control measures
- odour from the proposed works is likely to be similar to the odour observed from the current landfill, but is likely to decrease as the tipping face moves westwards, further away from people
- odour risk can be managed as WCC adopt best practice controls (including using daily cover), and are proposing an environmental significance overlay around the landfill, which would assist in safeguarding a suitably sized odour buffer zone.
To further manage odour, a condition of the works approval requires WCC to develop and implement an odour management and monitoring plan.
Noise can be generated from landfill sites, primarily through the operation of vehicles and other equipment. Excessive noise can adversely impact people’s sleep and other work or domestic activities by causing annoyance and distress.
Conclusions about the noise assessment:
- The risk of excessive noise is expected to be minimal if all noise mitigation measures are in place, including construction of earth berms (soil mounds) and use of portable noise barriers.
- Permissible noise limits have been calculated in accordance with the State Environment Protection Policy (Control of Noise from Commerce, Industry and Trade) No. N–1. Noise limits for daytime are between 50-56 decibels (dBA), for the evening they are 44–53 dBA, and 40–48 dBA for the nighttime.
- EPA monitored noise from current operations for one week at a nearby residence that had previously been reporting noise from current operations. Some slight exceedances of noise limits were recorded, yet the landfill’s noise modelling predicted compliance at this residence (just under the limits). However, noise is predicted to decrease as part of future operations as the tipping face moves away from this residence.
- As the landfill develops and the tipping face moves, other residences are predicted to be affected at times. Five of the eight nearby residences are predicted to be noise-affected at different phases of the landfill development. The residence predicted to have the highest noise impacts is owned by WCC.
- The predicted and measured noise exceedances are small and should be mitigated through management actions. Noise should continue to be monitored so as to update the noise modelling and assess the effectiveness of noise mitigation measures. An updated noise management plan and monitoring program will be required before the commencement of future operations.
Landfill gas is a mixture of different types of gases produced from the breakdown of wastes in the landfill. It is odorous and in certain conditions can potentially be explosive when mixed with air. It also contains greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.
Landfill gas can potentially be released into the air. If landfill gas escapes from containment areas, such as gas wells, it can move through rocks and soils around the landfill. For these reasons, landfill gas requires careful management and monitoring.
Conclusions about proposed landfill gas management and monitoring:
- Landfill gas will continue to be collected in a gas extraction system, which applies suction to the waste to remove the gas.
- The performance of the gas extraction system is monitored at the surface of each cell and at the landfill perimeter through sub-surface landfill gas monitoring bores.
- The proposed and current management and monitoring is in line with landfill gas best practice environmental management and the landfill gas risk level at the site. This ongoing management and monitoring will be reinforced by EPA licence conditions, as is already happening with the current operation.
- The capture and minimisation of landfill gas will reduce the total emissions of greenhouse gases from the landfill. Methane in the landfill gas will be converted to carbon dioxide via combustion. Carbon dioxide is also a greenhouse gas but is around 25 times less effective than methane. Via combustion, landfill gas will be used to produce electricity, which is planned to be scaled up as more landfill gas becomes available.
Potential health effects are a concern for some members of the community surrounding the landfill.
Conclusions about potential health effects:
- Department of Health and Human Services and EPA jointly commissioned an update to a previous independent literature review about possible health effects of living near a non-hazardous waste landfill (such as Wyndham). The review did not find evidence of adverse health effects, but concluded that some gases and compounds released from non-hazardous waste landfills may be odorous and can affect the wellbeing of the local community.
- Department of Health and Human Services do not object to the proposed works on public health grounds, provided that EPA is satisfied that the relevant state environment protection policies and environmental guidelines will be met.
Consistency with statewide and metropolitan waste resource recovery implementation plans and compliance with section 50C of the Environment Protection Act
EPA may refuse to consider an application for a works approval in relation to a waste management facility if the operations would be inconsistent with these plans.
The proposed landfill facility was found to be consistent with the plans. The landfill is scheduled to be active until 2046, which is considered necessary to support current and long-term waste planning for the metropolitan region.
Compliance with the Landfill Waste Management Policy and the Landfill BPEM
The works approval application demonstrated compliance with the Landfill Waste Management Policy (WMP) and Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills (publication 788; the Landfill BPEM):
- The proposed landfill is listed in the landfill schedule of the Metropolitan Waste Resource Recovery Implementation Plans 2016, with an identified lifespan (subject to works approval) from 2016–2046.
- The proposed landfill siting complies with Landfill WMP requirements.
- Although the works approval application was not able to demonstrate the long-term undisturbed groundwater levels and quality at the site, additional design and management measures to protect groundwater and prevent buildup of groundwater pressures under the cell liner have been proposed to compensate for this, as required by the Landfill WMP.
- The landfill siting complies with the BPEM buffer requirements for groundwater, surface waters, buildings and structures and aerodromes. Optimising the separation/buffer distance between the landfill and potential sensitive receptors (reticences) is critical to effectively manage the impact of residual odour emissions. EPA strongly recommends that WCC formalise their proposed amendment to the planning scheme to establish an Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO). The proposed ESO is to be based on the likely extent of ‘medium odour risk’.
The works approval application contains sufficient design features to comply with the Landfill BPEM, however, further detailed design information should be provided prior to the start of landfill construction.