Tipping point

While most of the district’s residents are preparing for the festive season, those living around the Victoria Street tip have spent three weeks keeping an increasing amount of rubbish at bay.
Nanjing Night Net

And yesterday they were calling on council to repair work recently undertaken at the waste facility.

The first indication that something was amiss was the morning of Monday, December 3 when one resident awoke to a dirt pile more than two metres high which had materialised overnight across the road from their house.

“It had taken out the fence it was so huge and the exposed rubbish was just laying there on the bank at the side of the road,” the residen, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

They said one storm would have washed it down the bank and into the gutters.

“We could hear the vibrations of machinary,” the resident said.

The noise confirmed that work was being undertaken at the tip, but residents were unable to see what the nature of that work was.

The situation deteriorated with recent windstorms which scattered freshly exposed rubbish throughout the neighbourhood.

“My neighbour’s fenceline looked like a white fence – it was absolutely covered with white bags,” the resident said.

Despite calls to the council and Environmental Protection Authority, the residents were growing increasingly concerned about the activity at the tip which they thought had closed.

What further exacerbated the situation was the revelation that the works at the tip had exposed previously buried asbestos, leaving residents with no clue as to how long these bags had been laying in the open.

What the residents didn’t know was that council was working on a contingency plan to deal with the temporary closure of the landfill facility the town’s rubbish was being transported to.

The Victoria Street tip became a transfer station after 2004 when council started sending the town’s rubbish to Bald Hill landfill facility, a former quarry located at Jugiong.

But on December 3 Bald Hill Quarry site gave notice to the eight shire councils it services they were closing their gates because they had reached their 20,000 tonne annual licence capacity.

“We were warned they would not go over the 20,000 tonnes so two weeks ago the councils entered into a lot of discussion about contingencies and alternate disposals,” said Harden Shire Council mayor and chairman of the Southwest Waste Group, Chris Manchester.

But by December 4, the State Government approved the application lodged almost 12 months ago to expand the Bald Hill landfill’s licence to 40,000 tonnes.

Until Young Shire Council heard word they could send their rubbish to Jugiong again following the expansion approval, for a day and a quarter they were taking the shire’s rubbish to their Victoria Street site.

Both council’s general manager, Peter Vlatko, and director of planning, environment and strategic services, Craig Filmer, dismissed allegations they dug a hole to make way for the rubbish.

“We never let go of our licence and we therefore can still operate as a tip – we never had to send our garbage to Jugiong, we chose to use the transfer,” Mr Filmer said.

“We want the residents to know that we didn’t dig a hole at the site – we imported soil and dirt and made an above-ground cell which is an area with dirt walls, preparing ourselves incase [the Bald Hill tip closure] was for a long time,” he said.

“Staff have now folded that cell over and tipped dirt over the top,” Mr Filmer said.

Mr Vlatko added they still use the tip for some rubbish and that the loose garbage blowing around of late due to recent winds, was not old buried garbage.

Residents were also concerned that the earthmoving was stirring up old asbestos pits, however council contested claims there was aspestos left uncovered.

“We’ve always had a small trench for asbestos five to six metres long – we double bag it as per work cover requirements, record where we put it and cover it with dirt within 24 hours and then later with a one metre cover,” Mr Filmer said.

“We can take all forms of asbestos but we choose to take sheet or hard form because it is far less dangerous than fibrous,” he said.

“We’re disappointed people aren’t coming to us to talk to us about these issues, our phone number hasn’t changed (6380 1200) – we’re good neighbours, we’re willing to sit down with them and tell them what’s happening,” Mr Filmer added.

The EPA advised yesterday that once asbestos waste is buried at a landfill, it should not be disturbed.

“NSW environmental laws require asbestos to be buried at least 0.5m below ground on the day of disposal, and to a depth of at least 1m below the final ground surface of the landfill,” a spokeswoman said.

She also said this was primarily a matter for council.

“Council did advise the EPA that some asbestos pipes had been exposed,” the spokeswoman said.

“The EPA understands that once Council became aware of the issue, the material was buried at least 0.5m below the surface,” she said.

The EPA encourages everyone to report suspected pollution incidents on the Environment Line 131 555.

TIP: The Victoria Street tip a reason for concern.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.