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Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has been monitoring odour in the area of the Melbourne Regional Landfill at Ravenhall since 2013, when it was owned and operated by Boral. Cleanaway took over ownership and operation of the site, under the business name Landfill Operations P/L, on 1 March 2015.
Residents in the area have reported very strong odours, and have wanted to know whether it is toxic or could make them or their families sick. They have also reported that litter has escaped the landfill premises and trucks have tracked mud off the site and onto local roads. Some residents may also have concerns about groundwater in the area.
Odour reports received stating the Ravenhall landfill as the source since 2014 (results as a table)
Pollution abatement notice for rising leachate levels
On 18 August 2016 EPA issued Landfill Operations P/L (Cleanaway) a pollution abatement notice (PAN) requiring it to address leachate levels within the landfill, and infrastructure upgrades was required in order to manage leachate levels within landfill cells.
Leachate is a liquid formed by rainwater and decomposing waste.
Cleanaway has not impacted groundwater. The leachate levels in the treatment pond were found to be at 60 to 70 per cent of capacity. Although environmental impacts were low, Cleanaway will need to install controls to ensure leachate levels are appropriately managed onsite.
As this is a significant infrastructure upgrade that will require a reasonable amount of time to complete, Cleanaway has until November 2020 to meet the requirements of the PAN. In the meantime, the company will continue to work through interim options to manage leachate at the landfill with EPA.
A PAN is a legal notice requiring a recipient to prevent potential environmental risk through installation of risk controls or changes to onsite processes and practices. EPA has provided advice to Cleanaway on ways it can meet the requirements of the PAN, including installation of a trade waste disposal line to the sewerage network.
PANs give recipients a timeframe to comply. Failure to do so will lead to enforcement action in accordance with EPA’s Compliance and enforcement policy (publication 1388).
What have we done about pollution reports in the area?
We have conducted 29 investigations of odour based on pollution reports submitted by the public to us.
EPA has conducted three series of odour surveillance monitoring: in February to March 2014, in February to April 2015 and January 2016. In total EPA has made 760 odour checks as part of these programs.
Rapid odour response program in 2015 and 2016
EPA ran a rapid response program in July 2015 and February 2016 due to high numbers of ongoing community reports of landfill odour. This program involved EPA officers operating from the CFA fire station at Caroline Springs from 7 am to 10 pm daily, so they could immediately attend pollution reports when they were made by residents.
EPA received no pollution reports during the July 2015 operation. EPA responded to 17 reports of odour during the February 2016 operation. Regardless of the short response time, EPA officers could not detect odour at any of the reported locations by. Since 2016 EPA has not ran the rapid response program.
Other action EPA has taken
Boral was first issued a notice in April 2014 requiring it to complete remedial measures to prevent offensive odours. A second notice was issued in May 2014 requiring the company to reduce landfill gas emissions by reinstating, replacing or repairing landfill gas transmission pipework and increasing the efficiency of its gas extraction systems.
EPA has regularly inspected the landfill, to ensure Cleanaway is operating it within the terms of its licence.
What are we currently doing about the situation?
In August 2018 EPA responded to reports of litter beyond the boundary of the premises during an extreme high wind event.
During the course of the inspections EPA identified significant damage to the litter fencing along Middle Road and significant litter in adjacent properties to the south of the landfill.
- EPA issued a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice (PAN) to Cleanaway, requiring rectification of fencing.
- EPA revoked the Minor Works PAN due to repairs made to the 12m high litter net along Middle Road.
- EPA issued a PAN requiring modification of controls to ensure litter is not discharged beyond any boundary of the landfill. The compliance due date for this PAN is August 2019.
- EPA also issued a PAN requiring Cleanaway review and update on the litter monitoring program in accordance with the Licence assessment guidelines (EPA publication 1321).
- EPA received a Litter Management Plan that formed part of the landfill Environmental Monitoring Plan for the premises, Cleanaway reached compliance and EPA revoked the PAN in November 2018.
- EPA assessed the incident of litter blown off the landfill against its Compliance and Enforcement Policy and issued an infringement notice to Cleanaway in October 2018.
- EPA also attends a monthly site meeting and inspection and has scheduled for these to be ongoing. The last meeting took place on 30 October 2018 and the next planned inspection is 28 November 2018.