Purpose

This factsheet provides information to general practitioners treating local community members impacted by the remediation of Kealba landfill. This update is for August 2021 and includes environmental monitoring data between July 2020 to June 2021. Further detailed information is provided in Interim air pollution assessment for Kealba landfill hotspot remediation.

Landfill fire hotspots are areas of high temperature deep in the landfill that generate localised smoke and strong odours. Barro Group, the operator of Kealba landfill, has been undertaking works to remediate four hotspots. While the remediation is not generating visible smoke beyond the boundary, the remediation has generated significant odours and, on occasions, particulate matter above the national standard at the boundary of the site.

The two communities impacted by the remediation works are to the north (Kealba, Keilor, Keilor Downs) and to the west (St Albans, St Albans East, Sunshine) of the landfill. Community members have reported health symptoms which are contributing to significant community distress. These include:

  • sore throats 
  • headaches 
  • nausea
  • stinging eyes
  • triggering of asthma symptoms
  • impacts to wellbeing, mental health and quality of life.

Pollution reports were predominantly raised in Kealba and St Albans, with a significant increase in November and December 2020 when the remediation accessed older, hotter waste. Offensive odours reported by the community have also been observed by EPA officers. 

Odours can stimulate the central nervous system causing short-term, reversible physiological effects including triggering of asthma symptoms. Nonetheless, the long-term risk to health from odour exposure is very low. Further information on environmental odours is available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Air quality monitoring

EPA has required the landfill owner to conduct regular air quality monitoring for key indicator substances including particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These measurements were undertaken at the boundary of the site with Kealba and St Albans, with concentrations in the community decreasing with distance. 

On the 6 August 2021, EPA deployed air quality monitors in both Kealba and St Albans communities, to provide near real time information on PM2.5 concentrations within the two communities. Hourly average values for PM2.5 include air quality categories and health advice. Since deployment hourly PM2.5 concentrations in the community have been within the category of ‘good’. It is important to 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 to be managed in discussion with their doctor.

EPA's air quality information is available on EPA AirWatch:

Reviewed 1 September 2021