Minister urged to stop landfill folly

Michael Sinclair-Jones
 
LOCAL Labor MP Darren West says he will support the fight to stop Perth rubbish being dumped in Toodyay after the State’s environment regulator last month overruled local residents’ concerns that water protections had not been complied with.
 
 
 
Rubbish pit (lower centre) and evaporation ponds (lower right) to be filled with toxic sludge.
 
 
 
(below)  Chitty Road rubbish site with Jimperding Brook feeder stream in line of trees immediately beyond.
 
 
Mr West said he would invite new Labor Environment Minister Stephen Dawson to Toodyay to meet local residents and see for himself that the Hoddys Well landfill site is unsuitable for dumping rubbish.
 
Adding more heavy trucks to Toodyay Road was also a concern, Mr West said.
 
The former Wheatbelt Development Commission chair and Jennacubbine farmer said he had driven trucks on Toodyay Road and knew how dangerous it was.
 
“The problem is a lack of a government plan for dealing with metropolitan waste,” Mr West said.
 
“Simply banning landfill on the Swan coastal plain – which the previous government did – only invites private companies to look for the cheapest sites elsewhere, such as in Toodyay and York.
 
“There is no overall strategy for how to manage waste disposal.”
 
Mr West said he would be concerned if the Department of Water and Environment Regulation had rewarded Perth landfill operator Opal Vale for non-compliance.
 
Local WA Nationals MP Shane Love said he too was concerned about “the recent relaxing of strict conditions regarding the Opal Vale waste facility” and would also take it up with the WA Environment Minister.
 
The company last month won the right to reduce the distance between the bottom of the landfill pit and the underlying water table after it failed to comply with State requirements during construction last year.
 
The bottom of the rubbish pit is lined with a 2mm plastic membrane which was only between 1.73m and 1.9m above the water table, according to tests, instead of being separated from it by at least two metres.
 
The Chitty Road site is surrounded by lush farmlands that carry creeks and streams into Jimperding Brook, which flows under Toodyay Road and enters the Avon River upstream from Cobbler Pool – site of the annual Avon Descent overnight camp –   about 13km north of the rubbish dump site.
 
The decision to reduce groundwater protection was opposed by 14 local residents, the Toodyay Community Group and Toodyay Shire Council, which moved two years ago to ban landfill operations in the shire.
 
However, Opal Vale argued it had a pre-existing right to continue with its current plans because they were lodged when the shire’s previous planning laws still applied.
 
The environmental regulator said Opal Vale – which said earlier this year that it had spent $3 million on earthworks, access roads, a weighbridge and other facilities – could now apply for a licence to start dumping, which is has since done.
 
However, local opponents have lodged a new appeal against the government regulator’s latest decision.
 
Opal Vale is now also seeking to dump thousands of tonnes of Perth rubbish in York after a previous plan by another company was withdrawn last year.


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