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Kealba Landfill is operated by Barro Group Pty Limited and is licensed to accept solid inert waste and shredded tyres.
Since identifying hotspots in the landfill on 26 November 2019, the operator has been required by EPA to manage and extinguish the hotspots as quickly and safely as possible.
EPA issued a number of notices that required the operator to determine how to remediate the hotspots, carry out air quality monitoring and keep the local community informed of action being taken.
On 26 March 2021, EPA issued Barro Group an updated Clean Up Notice. The notice requires hotspots in 2 of the 3 landfill cells to be finally extinguished by 31 May 2021, and the last cell by 31 July 2021.
The notice requires the company to find expert advice on how their remediation strategy can be revised to finish the job sooner. It also requires the company to provide weekly updates to the community, including forecasts of odour conditions.
- Fact sheet: Odour from the Kealba landfill (Arabic) (publication 1932)
- Fact sheet: Odour from the Kealba landfill (Vietnamese) (publication 1933)
How hotspots started at Kealba landfill
A landfill hotspot is an area of waste below the landfill surface with elevated temperature that can arise from the natural breakdown of waste under certain conditions. This usually happens when oxygen reacts with organic matter as it breaks down.
Four hotspots have been identified at the landfill, located deep within landfill cells.
Hotspots can release odour and smoke to the atmosphere. The hotspots are deep in the landfill. This means the waste that is burning is old, so we can’t be sure exactly what started the hotspots. From the hot waste we’ve seen, there is no evidence of illegal activities or toxic chemicals buried in the landfill. As waste naturally breaks down, it generates heat. This heat combines with oxygen in the landfill. This is the most likely cause of the hotspots.
Air quality monitoring at Kealba landfill
Air quality monitoring by both EPA and the landfill operator has found no issues of concern with respect to human health to date. EPA expects there will continue to be no health impacts but still requires the company to continue its air monitoring at the site.
Results of air quality monitoring by the operator will continue during this trial and results can be found at the Sunshine Landfill website.
Remediation action at Kealba Landfill
The landfill operator continues to remove waste in the landfill and recommenced remediation works on 4 January 2021. Whilst the completion time is still unknown due to the complex and uncertain nature of the works, EPA and Barro Group are working to resolve the issue as quickly and safely as possible.
Barro Group has temporarily suspended the acceptance of any incoming waste at the premises from 23 December 2020 until further notice.
Progress on remediation of hotspots
As at early February 2021, EPA’s regular compliance inspections have observed good progress on remediation of the hotspots in recent weeks. Excavations are currently targeting the deeper subsurface hotspots near the base of the landfill. EPA’s recent odour survey undertaken onsite and in the nearby community noted that odours were less intense than in previous weeks, though constant and consistent with excavation works.
EPA is regulating cleanup of the hotspots through our legal notices, rather than shutting down the landfill or suspending its licence. This is because our notices give us the power to require the landfill operator to carry out activities such as air quality monitoring, informing the community of its activities, and preventing water pollution.
To shut down a landfill, we need to comply with our Compliance and enforcement policy. Currently, we don’t believe that shutting down the landfill would comply with the policy, and therefore may not be enforceable in court.
EPA is satisfied that working to clean up the hotspot through our legally enforceable notices will result in:
- quicker remediation
- measures to protect and inform the community
- less harm.
EPA continues to inspect the landfill regularly. The landfill operator will continue air quality monitoring and community engagement. This is required by an EPA-issued Clean Up Notice (CUN) (PDF 222KB).
Removing remaining hotspots in the new year
Barro Group recommenced remediation works on 4 January 2021. They also temporarily stopped accepting all incoming waste at the premises from 23 December 2020 until further notice.
Regular EPA compliance checks and advice from technical specialist consultants onsite are continuing to inform the remediation works. All attempts to resolve the issue as quickly and safely as possible are being made.
Until recently, the landfill operator has been required to cover the waste being cooled on the bed of clay with a layer of soil at the end of each day’s operations to reduce odour from that waste impacting the local community.
To speed up the removal of the hotspots, the operator proposed to not cover waste on the clay bed after daily operations.
The operator estimates this new method will reduce hotspot removal by at least two to three months. A trial was conducted to find out whether the new technique increased odour impact on the community.
Under a notice, EPA regulated this trial until 30 September 2020.
The results of the trial showed that progress to remove hotspots was twice as fast with the new technique. There was an increase in odour impact to the community during September. This was due, in large part, to more waste that is hotter, deeper and older being dug up.
In October, EPA approved this trial to continue. This is to complete hotspot removal as quickly as possible, to stop odour impacting the community. As part of this extension, the landfill operator must:
- cover any waste cooling on the clay bed over weekends
- continue air quality monitoring
- continue to keep the community informed.
The decision to extend the trial came after discussions with some of the most affected residents. Many told EPA they prefer an earlier completion time, even though odour may increase during the trial period.
The completion date still depends on how large and hot the waste hotspots are. Now, the process of digging up and cooling each hotspot will take considerably less time.
Action taken by EPA
Since becoming aware of the hotspots at the Kealba landfill, EPA has:
- conducted regular inspections at the site and nearby area
- served the operator with four Clean Up Notices
- served the operator with one Official Warning for failing to immediately notify EPA of hotspots
- served the operator with one Infringement Notice for failing to apply daily cover
- carried out two weeks of incident air monitoring from 2 December 2019 to 17 December 2019. This was before we required the operator to do its own air monitoring.
- participated in community information sessions in December 2019, September 2020, and December 2020.
- carried out one letter box drop in the local area and required the operator to carry out two letter box drops.
By the end of October 2020, approximately 20,000 cubic metres of material were excavated as part of the hotspot remediation process.
Community engagement about Kealba Landfill
The Sunshine Landfill website has the latest updates, including a remediation timeline and recordings of community information sessions.
EPA also recently required Barro Group to provide this letter to the local community.
Under the current EPA notice the landfill operator must continue to engage with the local community. EPA, along with Barro Group, is engaging directly with individual community members about their specific concerns.
EPA will conduct further work on the causes of the hotspots and ways to try to prevent similar situations occurring in the future.
Leachate at Kealba Landfill
EPA has investigated community reports of leachate from the landfill being discharged to the adjacent Maribyrnong River. EPA has determined that leachate is not currently impacting groundwater or the river. We have ongoing licence conditions to ensure this continues to be monitored and prevented.
What to do if you experience odourYou can report excessive odour to our 24-hour hotline – 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).
If you feel unwell, you can:
We’ll keep this web page up to date with the latest information about the Kealba landfill. We’ll continue to give information to the local residents and our partners at Brimbank City Council.
Our Clean Up Notice (CUN) (PDF 222KB) requires the landfill operator to proactively engage with the local community. It has set up a web page about the landfill to keep the local community informed about what’s happening.
Barro Group is holding online community information sessions every Wednesday at 8 pm. EPA will continue to attend to provide the latest information, listen to community and respond to questions and concerns.
Video recordings of these sessions are available on the Sunshine Landfill website.
Reviewed 7 May 2021