Status
Active
Incident Date
1 July 2022
Locations Affected
Suburbs: Botanic Ridge, Settlers Run, Brooklands Greens, Cranbourne

EPA Region: Southern Metro

EPA is investigating odour impacts emitted from the Stevensons Brothers Industries (SBI) landfill in Ballarto Rd, Cranbourne.  Please keep reading for more information, or jump to the latest updates at the bottom of this page.

Summary

We have confirmed the odour is hydrogen sulphide (which is often described as a rotting-egg smell). The source of the odour is SBI’s sole landfill cell, which is EPA-licenced to accept solid inert waste, like construction and demolition materials. 

EPA has been visiting the site on a weekly basis and has identified several factors that have contributed to the smell at the landfill.

Our public health scientists advice the gases have been detected at low levels unlikely to cause long-term harm. You can read more on our assessment of the potential short-term health impacts of this incident.

Improvement notices have been issued

We have enforced licence conditions on SBI by issuing remedial notices that requires SBI to take action to minimise the odour. EPA has issued improvement notices to:

  • improve the daily cover. This is used to cover the active tip face and can help ensure odours don’t occur overnight
  • install a mechanism to capture and treat landfill gas, including managing and treating leachate, where required, to prevent offensive odours off-site
  • take measures to prevent hotspots in the waste mass at the landfill site

You can learn more about the SBI landfill below. 

EPA is currently conducting investigations into potential breaches of the Environment Protection Act 2017 including the General Environmental Duty and SBI landfill licence requirements. Our officers are inspecting the site weekly to hold SBI to account with the law and to provide technical advice so they can reduce odour impacts as quickly as possible.  


If you notice a strong odour in the area, please report it to EPA as soon as possible. You can notify us by completing this pollution report form or you can email contact@epa.vic.gov.au or phone our contact centre on 1300 372 842.

Try to include as much information as possible, including:

  • type of odour (read our guide on how to describe smells)
  • wind strength and direction
  • your location

Community information

It is EPA’s practice is to make the results of investigations public as soon as possible. Please bookmark and return to this page to view the latest updates from EPA and please also visit SBI's news page

Information sessions for residents

Representatives from SBI, the City of Casey and EPA will be available to answer your questions. There’s no need to RSVP, just come along.

  • Saturday 6 August, 10am to 12pm: Mayone-Bulluck Family and Community Centre (66 Bradman Drive, Cranbourne West)

Health impacts from SBI landfill odours

Our public health scientists assess risks to health based on many factors, including the potential for harm from a landfill, how people are exposed, health effects from exposure, and those being exposed.

EPA’s investigations at the SBI landfill indicate odours, although unpleasant, have been detected at levels much lower than those likely to cause long-term harm. We are closely monitoring the site and, if anything changes, we will update you as soon as possible.

Refer to the SBI landfill odour factsheet which provides information for general practitioners treating community members that may be affected by the odour.

What is the smell?

The rotten egg smell is hydrogen sulphide (H2S). This gas can be produced when solid inert waste (such as construction and demolition materials) is decomposing.

Is it dangerous?

Although it is an unpleasant smell, our public health scientists have advised there is no indication the odour from SBI will cause any long-term adverse health effects on humans, animals, or plants. However short-term health effects may occur for the duration of exposure.

Depending on the amount of exposure to hydrogen sulphide, effects can cause coughing, watery eyes, irritation of the eyes and throat, headache, and nausea, depending on the amount of exposure. These effects usually go away quite quickly once exposure stops.

EPA encourages residents to see your doctor if you are concerned about any symptoms or health issues.

How to minimise your exposure to the odour

The short-term health impacts of this type of odour will vary based on the level of exposure. To minimise your exposure, we recommend:

  • If there is no noticeable odour outside, ventilate your house by opening doors and windows to replace stale air with fresh air (if possible)
  • If the smell is noticeable outside, keep your windows and doors closed.

If it is safe, why is the smell so bad?

Hydrogen sulphide is heavier than air, which is why it settles on residential areas. Winter can make the smell seem even worse, because cold, damp weather keeps the odour even closer to the ground.

You might find that the smell is strongest at night or in the mornings when the air is still. This is because the still conditions can cause the odour to become trapped, so it can accumulate close to the ground instead of dispersing into the atmosphere.

Will the odour harm your pets?

The latest EPA analysis of the site shows that the hydrogen sulphide levels are low. There is no indication the odour will cause any long-term adverse health effects for you or your pets. However, as with humans, your pets may experience short-term health effects for the duration of exposure, but this should go away quickly once exposure stops.

The short-term health impacts on pets will vary based on various factors, including the level of exposure. Read our advice on how to minimise the impact of odour exposure. If you have any concerns about your pets, we recommend you visit a vet so they can address any specific health concerns.

Is the odour impacting native wildlife?

There is no indication the odour from SBI will cause any long-term adverse health effects on animals or plants. If we become aware of potential harm to native wildlife we will consider appropriate regulatory actions in partnership with other government agencies.

Is there methane leaking from the landfill?

No methane has been detected during our routine monitoring. SBI operates a gas flaring system and a biofilter designed to capture and manage any gases that are emitted from the landfill.

Will we need to evacuate our homes?

No. There is no need to evacuate homes.

Is this the same type of gas that affected Brookland Greens Estate?

No. SBI is being impacted by hydrogen sulphide (produced by the breakdown of solid inert waste). The gas that affected homes in the Brookland Greens Estate was methane (produced by the breakdown of organic waste like food scraps).

The landfill that impacted Brookland Greens Estate was constructed prior to current standards, and it was not lined. It was licensed to accept organic materials. Organic waste materials produce higher levels of landfill gases compared to the landfill at SBI which only accepts solid inert waste.

The SBI landfill is not licensed to accept organic materials, and there have been no methane emissions detected at the SBI landfill.

Learn about the SBI landfill

The SBI landfill holds an operating licence. Operating licences are for complex high-risk industrial and waste activities that are ongoing.

Different landfills accept different waste, depending on their licence.

The SBI landfill is EPA-licensed to:

  • accept solid inert waste such as construction and demolition waste. This means anything your house and furniture are made of, such as wood, particle board, carpets and foams, gypsum etc.

The site also holds an EPA permit for:

  • waste and resource recovery

SBI does not have a license to accept liquids, household waste (like food or food wrappings) or green waste (like garden clippings).

What happened at SBI to cause this odour?

Insufficient cover over construction and demolition waste at the landfill, stagnant water, potential hotspots in the landfill cell, blockage in the leachate capture infrastructure, and management of landfill gas extraction.

Our investigations show the lack of cover has allowed rainwater to flow through and pool underneath, which increased the generation of odorous trace gases. SBI also failed to prevent odorous gas escaping to the atmosphere.

Why has the landfill been allowed to continue operations?

Shutting down the landfill will not stop the odour in the short term. In addition. the EPA takes an escalating approach to enforcement. This means we respond more harshly if a business is resistant, evasive or fails to account for its risks. To date SBI have been cooperative and EPA are working closely with the landfill operator to ensure measures and controls are implemented to address the issue on immediate and long-term solutions.

For more information

Responsibilities by organisation

At any large-scale site, like the SBI landfill, there are many organisations that have a role in regulation, to ensure the site prevents and manages any risks.

EPA

As Victoria’s independent environment regulator, our role is to check and enforce compliance with the Environment Protection Act (2017).

EPA is responsible for preventing or controlling pollution (including noise) and improving the quality of the environment. This responsibility includes regulating activities that may present a danger to the environment.

One of the tools available to EPA is the licensing of certain scheduled premises that may present a risk to the environment. The EPA ensures duty holders, such as SBI, complies with the obligations of their licence to minimise risk to human health and the environment.

For more information

Local council

The local council has legislative oversight of the planning requirements for the SBI site.

For more information

License holder (also known as a duty holder)

A licence is subject to conditions. These conditions give rise to a number of duties and obligations on the licence holder. Some of these are general in nature, while others require the license holder to do (or not to do) specific things. For example, SBI holds an operating licence that includes conditions that require SBI to report to EPA annually, as well as in the event any breaches are detected.

For more information

Worksafe

Worksafe is Victoria’s workplace health and safety regulator that ensures employers, such as SBI, comply with their OHS obligations to create a safe work environment.

Worksafe has been notified of the SBI incident and are carrying out their own investigations.

VicRoads

VicRoads manages the road network under the Road Management Act (2004).

We understand there have been reports about the state of the road in the vicinity of the SBI landfill. The City of Casey council has been following this up directly with VicRoads.

Latest Updates

Reviewed 10 August 2022