EPA Victoria has cancelled Barro Group’s licence to operate its Sunshine Landfill site at Kealba.
The decision followed careful assessment of information Barro Group provided in response to a show cause notice issued by EPA on 28 October 2022.
The licence, which has been suspended by EPA since 13 September 2021, will be formally cancelled on 1 February 2023 when the suspension expires. The cancellation of the licence means Barro Group cannot resume receiving waste at the site.
While the landfill can no longer operate to receive waste, Barro Group is required to continue to manage risks at the site, extinguish remaining hotspots and remove the constant issue of odour escaping and affecting local community.
EPA has several regulatory notices in place to ensure this happens as quickly and safely as possible.
EPA CEO Lee said the site had been the subject of constant EPA regulatory action, with the local community being impacted by ongoing odour issues caused by hotspots at the site.
“Barro Group has failed to bring this site into compliance and is no longer allowed the privilege of holding an EPA licence. The community has the right to live in an environment not impacted by odour from this landfill,” Mr said.
“While research shows health concerns caused by odour are not long term and will pass quickly once it is removed, the distress being caused is unacceptable and the community has suffered too much already
“Our decision in no way interferes with Barro’s obligations under the Environment Protection Act 2017, including complying with EPA notices already served on them, nor does it affect legal actions already underway.
“We will continue to enforce existing notices and while waste cannot be accepted at the site, the hotspots still need to be extinguished and managed.”
Mr said he was astounded to receive a preliminary report from lawyers acting for Barro Group in late December, stating an additional 90,000 – 100,000 cubic metres of material may need to be excavated to extinguish the final hotspot, which could take an additional 12 to 18 months.
“This new information contradicts earlier advice Barro Group has provided to EPA and the community about the time required to extinguish the remaining hotspots," he said.
“While EPA has issued a Notice to Investigate to the company to get more information, I expect Barro Group to explain itself to the local community. We are also examining what legal options and avenues are available to us in relation to this sudden turnaround.
“EPA has been very clear with Barro Group that we expect them to engage directly with community to explain their latest progress and findings.
“As recently as last October they suggested they were about 90 per cent of the way to extinguishing the hotspots and expected to be complete by the end of 2022.
“So, it is inconceivable that they should suddenly have discovered this huge additional amount of waste and the apparent need for another year and a half to remove it,” he said.
“While we are sceptical, we have asked for independent verification of the timelines for the work to be completed.”
EPA will continue to monitor air quality and odour from the site and provide this information to the community. For more information go to https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/current-projects-issues/kealba or attend EPA’s next community forum any time from 4-7pm on Tuesday 17 January 2023 at Kealba Hall, 24 McShane Drive.
EPA has set up a dedicated hotline for residents to report pollution and obtain more information about the Kealba landfill – call 1300 372 842 and press 4.
General pollution reports can also be made by phoning EPA at 1300 372 842 or email at email@example.com
Barro Group was granted an EPA licence to operate the landfill after a successful appeal to the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned objections from EPA and council.
More information about EPA actions at the site is available at: https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/current-projects-issues/kealba
EPA’s review of air quality, odour monitoring and pollution reports indicate it is contributing to community distress, predominantly at Kealba and St Albans. Our noses are sensitive and often pick up odour long before there is any health risk. In most cases, odours from landfill hotspots don’t impact long-term community health.
Reviewed 11 January 2023