On this page
EPA Victoria has cancelled Barro Group’s licence to operate the Sunshine Landfill at Kealba.
The cancellation of the licence does not affect current regulatory notices issued to the company. Barro Group is required to extinguish hotspots and manage other risks at the site.
EPA is also considering recent information from Barro. In late December, EPA received a preliminary report from lawyers representing Barro Group stating that an additional 90,000 to 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 from Barro Group differs from earlier advice given in October 2022 that works to extinguish the remaining hotspot was about 90% done, with completion expected by the end of 2022.
EPA has issued a Notice to Investigate to the company to obtain further information about this latest development. We expect Barro Group to explain itself to the local community and have made this clear to them. We are also examining what legal options and avenues are available to us given this latest information. For more information read our media release issued on 11 January 2023.
EPA continues to monitor air quality and odour from the site and provide this information to the community.
Compliance and enforcement timeline
EPA Victoria cancels Barro Group’s licence to operate the Sunshine Landfill at Kealba
- The licence, which has been suspended by EPA since 13 September 2021, will be formally revoked on 1 February 2023 when the suspension expires. This means Barro Group cannot resume receiving waste at the site.
Notice to Investigate
- EPA is considering information recently received from Barro. In late December, EPA received a preliminary report from lawyers representing Barro Group stating that an additional 90,000 to 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 from Barro Group contradicts earlier advice given in October 2022 that works to extinguish the remaining hotspot was about 90% done, with completion expected by the end of 2022.
- EPA issues a Notice to Investigate to the company to get more information about this latest development. We expect Barro Group to explain itself to the local community and have made this clear to them.
We are examining what legal options and avenues are available to us given this latest information. EPA will continue to monitor air quality and odour from the site and provide this information to the community.
- A committal mention hearing has been set for 31 March 2023 at the Melbourne Magistrates Court regarding the charges EPA laid against Barro Group and their three Directors.
- The committal mention hearing is largely administrative in nature. Barro Group and the directors will be required to indicate to the court whether they intend to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. A new court date will then be set accordingly. The case will not be finalised on that day. EPA is continuing to work with some community members regarding witness statements as part of this process.
- A Supreme Court hearing is set for 3 October 2023 regarding Barro Group’s request for a judicial review of EPA’s decision to refuse an extension of the Environmental Action Notice requirement to extinguish the final hotspot by 22 August 2022.
Information extension granted
- On 28 October 2022, EPA issued the site owners a Notice to Show Cause as to why their licence to operate should not be revoked.
- An initial response was received on November 14. The company indicated it wished to make a further submission, and in the interests of procedural fairness, EPA extended the deadline to 13 December.
- A decision as to whether EPA will revoke their operating licence will be made when all information is available and has been considered.
- On 28 October 2022, EPA charged the company operating the Sunshine Landfill at Kealba and its three directors with breaches of the General Environmental Duty (GED) under the Environment Protection Act 2017. These criminal charges have a maximum penalty of $1.8 million for the company and $360,000 for each director.
- The GED is a key element of the Environment Protection Act 2017. It requires all Victorians to assess their activities and take reasonable steps to minimise risk of harm to human health and the environment from pollution or waste.
- This action is separate from the suspension of the landfill’s operating licence and additional to requirements of any current notices.
Notice to Show Cause
- On 28 October 2022, EPA issued the site owners a Notice to Show Cause as to why their licence to operate should not be revoked.
- The company has until 13 December to respond to the notice before EPA makes its decision.
- Existing regulatory notices issued by EPA require the company to continue remediation work on the site to extinguish the hotspots and put appropriate controls in place to stop them from happening again.
- EPA will defend this matter and keep community informed. However, there may be some areas we are unable to discuss due to the legal action
Barro Group was required to have the final hot spot extinguished by 22 August 2022. This has not occurred and the prolonged impact on the community is unacceptable.
Today, 30 September, we have extended the suspension of Kealba Landfill’s operating licence until 31 January 2023.
We are finalising further regulatory action and will have a decision in the coming weeks. This could include prosecution, fines and licence cancellation.
In recent weeks the odours have been worse as the older, hotter and deeper waste is being excavated as part of the process to extinguish the fourth and final hot spot. While we require Barro Group to do everything it can to reduce odours, we’re advised it may get worse before it gets better.
- EPA Victoria has received an application from the Barro Group on 11 August to extend the final deadline for remediation works on hotspots at their Kealba Landfill in Sunshine Avenue, Kealba. Barro Group is seeking a new compliance date of 17 February, 2023.
- EPA has refused the application to extend the environmental action notice (EAN) date to extinguish the final Kealba landfill hotspot to 17 February 2023.
- EPA is not satisfied that all reasonably practicable steps have been taken to meet the current notice deadline of 22 August 2022
- EPA officers will conduct an inspection to check compliance with the current environmental action notice. EPA will escalate any non-compliances found for further investigation and potential enforcement.
- EPA’s suspension of Kealba landfill’s operating licence is not affected and remains in place.
- EPA issued an Environmental Action Notice for full abatement of the hotspots by the end of August 2022.
- On 13 September EPA suspends Barro Group’s licence to operate the Kealba landfill. The suspension takes immediate effect. This means that Barro Group can’t accept waste for landfill until EPA is satisfied that the operating licence should be re-instated.
- On the same day, EPA also issues an Environmental Action Notice. This requires Barro Group to continue its environmental monitoring, auditing, management, and rehabilitation obligations to prevent harm to human health and the environment from the landfill. The notice requires Barro Group to:
- submit an annual performance statement for the 2020/21 financial year on 30 September 2021
- update its Environmental Monitoring Program by 31 March 2022
- report on compliance with the notice by 30 June 2022.
- EPA deploya 2 new air quality monitors on 6 August. These are in Kealba and St Albans. The air quality monitors measure particles in the local air, and the results are posted online on Airwatch.
- EPA issues Barro Group with an Improvement Notice on 26 August. This requires Barro Group to take additional reasonably practicable measures to control noise at the site by 6 October 2021.
- The Environment Protection Act 2017, takes effect from 1 July. This gives EPA increased powers to prevent harm to public health and the environment from pollution and waste.
- EPA holds an online community information session on 12 July, to discuss the report on the regulation of the landfill.
- EPA serves a notice on Barro Group, on 25 June 2021, asking it to explain why we shouldn’t suspend it’s licence for non-compliance and causing odour impacts locally.
- On 20 May 2021 EPA refuses an application by Barro Group to amend its Clean Up Notice to extend the deadline for cleaning up the hotspots.
- On 31 May 2021 Barro Group fails to fix Hotspots 2, 3, and 4 by the due date in its Clean Up Notice.
- EPA starts an investigation into this non-compliance.
- Barro Group submits a report detailing its investigation into alternative hotspot reduction methods. This is to work out if any alternative methods could be used to speed up the cleanup. The investigation found that foam injection may be a suitable method, however as this method had not been tested in landfill hotspot before. A pilot trial would confirm how effective it may be. Barro Group considered how long a trial would take and the estimated time until the cleanup would be complete.
- Barro Group proposes to continue the current cleanup strategy, with increased operating hours.
- EPA issues Barro Group with an updated Clean Up Notice. The notice requires Barro Group to:
- extinguish hotspots 2, 3 and 4 by 31 May 2021
- extinguish hotspot 1 by 31 July 2021
- seek expert advice on how to finish their clean up sooner.
- provide weekly updates to the community, including odour forecasts.
- Barro Group commenced the first online weekly community information session to comply with EPA’s requirement of additional community engagement.
- Barro Group announced it was voluntarily suspending any incoming waste at the landfill until the hotspots are resolved. EPA officers inspected the landfill on the final day of landfilling operations in 2020, and during the holiday period.
- EPA increased compliance and enforcement activities. This included ongoing fortnightly inspections and weekly odour surveys. This was to make sure Barro Group took measures to contain odour and monitor for dust and noise.
- After Barro Group’s pilot trial, EPA issued a new Clean Up Notice to regulate ongoing changes to the cleanup strategy. It required Barro Group to produce a plan to reduce odours over the 2020/2021 holiday period and do additional community engagement.
- EPA issued a new Clean Up Notice to continue regulation of the cleanup and to regulate a pilot trial by Barro Group that proposed to speed up remediation works through a temporary change to how they cover waste.
- EPA carried out on-site volatile organic compound (VOC) monitoring. This involves hand-held monitoring devices and thermal imaging cameras to find sources of odour and hotspots.
- EPA issued a Clean Up Notice requiring Barro Group to start the cleanup in line with its approved strategy, as well as continue air quality monitoring and community engagement.
- EPA issued fine of approximately $8,000 for not applying daily cover on waste.
- EPA reviewed Barro Group’s proposed cleanup strategy with a range of specialists including EPA’s internationally recognised landfill expert. EPA found that a further Clean Up Notice would be required to strictly regulate Barro Groups cleanup operations.
- Barro Group gave EPA the results of its investigations into hotspots and its proposed cleanup strategy.
- EPA issued an official warning for failing to immediately notify EPA of the hotspots within 24 hours.
- EPA commences air quality monitoring and posts the results on EPA AirWatch.
- EPA issues a Clean Up Notice to require Barro Group to investigate and clean up the hotspots. This also includes doing air quality monitoring and community engagement.
- Landfill hotspots are identified. EPA issues the first of five notices requiring Barro Group (the landfill operator) to:
- investigate and deal with the hotspots
- monitor air quality
- keep the local community informed.
What caused the hot spots
There were 4 hotspots at the landfill, located deep within landfill cells. The Kealba landfill hotspots are likely to be a result of oxygen entering the landfill. When oxygen enters a landfill, it can result in combustion of old, decomposing waste.Two pathways are likely to have contributed to oxygen entering the landfill. First pathway is via the exposed, external side walls of the landfill. The second pathway is via the leachate drainage layer, which is underneath the waste mass.
You're invited to join us for our regular monthly community information sessions held at Kealba Hall (24 McShane Drive, Kealba). No need to book. Drop in anytime between 5pm and 7pm on:
- Thursday 21 September 2023
- Thursday 30 November 2023
It's an opportunity for you to talk to us about odour issues in St Albans and Kealba. You can also learn more about EPA’s compliance and enforcement actions.
For details of our latest actions, please refer to the enforcement timeline above. For historical information on EPA’s regulatory role and actions between November 2019 and June 2021, read EPA's report on the regulation of Kealba landfill (publication 1985).
On 28 October 2022, EPA charged the company operating the Sunshine Landfill at Kealba and its three directors with breaches of the General Environmental Duty (GED). The GED is part of the Environment Protection Act 2017. These criminal charges have a penalty of up to $1.8 million for the company and up to $360,000 for each director. A committal mention is set for 31 March 2023 at Melbourne Magistrates Court.
VCAT tribunal hearings are currently scheduled for March 2023 or later. The first hearing is regarding the decision to refuse to extend the abatement end date and the second is about the decision to revoke Barro Group’s EPA operating licence.
EPA has a number of key regulatory notices in place at the landfill.
- Environmental Action Notice (EAN-00001856) - this requires the hotspots to be remediated with auditor-verification, air monitoring and community engagement.
- Notice of Revocation. This cancels the licence and took effect on 1 February 2023 when the current licence suspension expired. It means Barro cannot accept waste or operate the site as a landfill.
- Environmental Action Notice (EAN-00003927). This supersedes the former EAN-00001266-2 and includes updated conditions that reflect the licence being cancelled.
- Notice to Investigate (NTI-00003911). This requires an auditor-verified report on the latest hotspot drilling information by 31 January 2023. The EPA officers are currently assessing the report.
We’ve issued many more notices since this issue commenced in November 2019.
EPA’s priority for this issue has been preventing and minimising any harm to community health from these hotspots. Air quality monitoring (by both EPA and Barro since December 2019) has found no issues of concern for long-term community health.
We do acknowledge the odour from the site can be offensive. We also acknowledge it is contributing to community distress in neighbouring suburbs. Impacted communities are to the north (Kealba, Keilor, Keilor Downs) and to the west (St Albans, St Albans East, Sunshine) of the landfill.
Odours can stimulate the central nervous system. This can cause short-term, reversible physiological effects including triggering of asthma symptoms. Nonetheless, our monitoring of the air around the site indicates the long-term risk to health from odour exposure is very low.
Our noses are sensitive and often pick up odour long before there is any health risk. Although there may be some short-term effects, in most cases odours from landfill hotspots do not impact long-term community health.
What to do if you experience odour
You can report offensive odour by phoning our contact centre on 1300 372 842 and choosing option 4. We're open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
If you feel unwell or distressed
- call NURSE ON CALL on 1300 60 60 24
- visit a doctor.
- visit Head to Health online to find digital mental health resources from trusted service providers including
- speak to someone at the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 and ask them call EPA Victoria on 1300 372 842
- contact us through the National Relay Service if you have a hearing or speech impairment.
Information for local doctors
EPA recognises how important local doctors are in providing care for local residents who may have health concerns about the odour.
We have provided local general practitioners (GPs) with information to assist them when working with local community impacted by the odour incident at Kealba.
- Landfill hotspots are areas of high temperature deep within landfills that generate localised smoke and strong odours.
- Barro Group, the operator of Kealba landfill, is conducting works to remediate hotspots. Remediation is not generating visible smoke beyond the landfill boundary but has generated significant odours and, on occasions, particulate matter above the national standard at the boundary of the site.
- There are two communities impacted by the remediation works. To the north (Kealba, Keilor, Keilor Downs) and to the west (St Albans, St Albans East, Sunshine) of the landfill. EPA officers have also experienced offensive odours.
- Community members have reported health symptoms which are contributing to significant community distress. These include:
- sore throats
- stinging eyes
- triggering of asthma symptoms
- impacts to wellbeing, mental health and quality of life.
- Further information about environmental odours can be found on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Air quality monitoring
EPA has required the landfill owner to conduct regular air quality monitoring. This is for key indicator substances including particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These measurements were done at the boundary of the site with Kealba and St Albans. Odour concentrations in the community decrease the further you are from the landfill site.
On 6 August 2021, EPA set up air quality monitors in both the Kealba and St Albans communities. This provided information on PM2.5 concentrations within the two communities.
Since deployment, hourly PM2.5 concentrations in the community have been in the ‘good’ category. Note that other sources, including odour, may trigger health symptoms. While PM2.5 may be low, other factors influencing an individual’s health may need managing in discussion with their doctor.
EPA's air quality information and easier access to health messaging is available on EPA AirWatch.
Reviewed 14 February 2023