Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has seen its decision to amend the licence of a Brooklyn landfill operator upheld at VCAT. The amendments relate to landfill cover conditions, waste recovery and stockpiling.
Western Land Reclamation (WLR) has operated the 17.5 hectare site for more than 20 years and has received frequent demands by EPA to improve its practices especially in relation to its acceptance of more waste than the landfill cells are permitted to hold and rehabilitation of former landfill cells.
In handing down its decision in EPA’s favour, VCAT pointed to the poor landfill management practices saying:
“WLR’s practices have not demonstrated an adequate regard to either the licence conditions or to industry accepted standard landfill management practices in Victoria.”
“The site is one of a complex group of sites in the Brooklyn industrial precinct that EPA has consulted over several years to introduce better operating practices,” said EPA CEO Nial Finegan.
“EPA has achieved great results with many landfill operators, however, WLR has decided to routinely appeal attempts by EPA to make licence amendments, enforce remedial notices and penalty infringements. While this is a right under the Environment Protection Act 1970 , it has meant an unnecessarily drawn out process that leaves the community vulnerable especially where EPA has been trying to impose changes that will better enable it to regulate those sites and address issues impacting upon the local community we serve.
“EPA is pleased with the VCAT decision as it affirms the conditions EPA is imposing on this site and other landfills. Though we understand the Tribunal’s and the community’s frustration that the site still has issues that need addressing. Action has been taken to bring WLR into line over many years, and the history of appeals against EPA decisions by WLR underlines the complexity of the sites history.
“EPA is investing in significant reforms that will further bolster our ability to effectively regulate complex sites such as this one.
“We will now ensure that the new EPA licence conditions are adhered to as part of its licence compliance activities and respond to any non-compliance in accordance with the compliance & enforcement policy.
“EPA has been frustrated with what it sees as the abuse of the appeals system by some operators who are simply out to delay implementation of EPA decisions that would provide good environmental outcomes. I’ll be in contact with VCAT to discuss what can be done to improve that situation."
Mr Finegan also noted that the VCAT success is one of several actions EPA has been involved with recently where the state’s legal bodies have found in its favour.
“Most recently, Eugene Skliar, who operated a Somerton resource recovery operation without permits or licences, was convicted, fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $20,000 in EPA costs,” said Mr Finegan.
"The WLR and Skliar cases are a demonstration of EPA’s new willingness to enforce regulations and hold those responsible for the management, or mismanagement, of resource recovery operations, to account.”
To read the VCAT decision please click on the link: http://www7.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2018/127.html
The Western Land Reclamation (WLR) licence amendment sought by the EPA gives greater clarity across three main points:
- Cover conditions – waste must be covered at all times, except at the active tipping face (which must be covered by end of day’s operations).
- Waste recovery – deposited waste cannot be recovered and reprocessed without written approval from EPA.
- Waste stockpiling – waste cannot be stockpiled prior to deposit in a landfill cell without written approval from EPA
Recent Compliance History – Western Land Reclamation
2001 – Prosecution for contravention of licence condition relating to offensive odours. WLR pleaded guilty, resulting in a s67AC order.
2010 – Remedial notice issued requiring dust controls. 2012 – Remedial notice issued to address offensive odours generated by a landfill fire. 2
013 – Remedial notice issued (and later amended under VCAT order) requiring dust controls.
2014 – Remedial notice issued requiring a Rehabilitation & Aftercare Management Plan. The notice was subsequently escalated as compliance had not been achieved.
2014 – Remedial notice issued requiring an assessment of the extent of soil and groundwater contamination. 2016 – Remedial notice issued requiring identification and mapping of hotspots at the premises.
2016 – Remedial notice issued (and later amended under VCAT order) requiring management and extinguishment of hotspots at the premises. The notice has now been escalated as compliance was not achieved by the due date. A recommendation for enforcement action is in progress.
2016 – Infringement Notice issued for contravention of licence condition relating to discharge of dust beyond the boundaries. Upheld after an internal (EPA) review was requested by WLR.
2016 – Official Warning issued for contravention of licence condition relating to uncovered waste. 2017 – Infringement Notice issued for contravention of licence condition relating to uncovered waste.
2017 – Several licence non-compliances were identified at the most recent licence compliance inspection and remedial notices are currently being drafted.
Recent Appeals History - Western Land Reclamation
2010 – VCAT appeal of licence amendment, relating to waste cover conditions. Special conditions were subsequently issued by EPA to accommodate WLR’s concerns.
2013 – VCAT appeal of a remedial notice issued to WLR requiring additional controls for managing dust generation at the premises. The notice was amended under VCAT order and later revoked when compliance had been achieved.
2016 – WLR sought an internal review of a remedial notice requiring the management of hotspots in the landfill. The review resulted in an amendment to the notice extending the compliance due dates.
2016 – VCAT appeal of the same remedial notice. The notice was amended under VCAT order to further extend compliance due dates and other minor changes. The notice is now in escalated status, as compliance had not been achieved by the final compliance due date.
2016 – WLR sought a review of an Infringement Notice issued for contravention of licence condition relating to dust beyond the boundaries. The review upheld the Infringement Notice and the fine was subsequently paid.
2017 – VCAT appeal of licence amendment, as outlined under ‘Recent VCAT Decision’ above.