The odour at Blaxland Tip is impacting on some nearby residents’ quality of life, but there are no plans to close it immediately because it would “have a massive financial impact on [all] residents”.
So said Mayor Mark Greenhill at the June Blue Mountains City Council meeting where council unanimously endorsed an external consultant’s report about the ongoing stench issues at the nearby 70-year-old waste management facility.
The Odour Unit $34,000 report found off-site odour emissions at a “frequency, duration and intensity that present a low-medium risk of leading to odour impact and nuisance on the nearby community”. A council action plan following The Odour Unit’s report has been approved by the state’s environmental regulator, the Environment Protection Authority.
The council tip is open seven days a week for landfill and community recycling. The tip reports to the EPA annually, which also details all complaints received. Complaints about the tip odour have been increasing since flooding in February last year. After council attempts to fix the problem in 2020 saw complaints continue, the mayor made the unusual request in November to call in the EPA to investigate. The EPA then placed special controls on the tip’s licence.
Council heard The Odour Unit did the survey in April in areas at, and beyond, the tip boundary, including in locations where complaints had been made. The survey took in different times and weather conditions and found some of the odour was occurring outside the tip operating hours.
- Particular off site locations where odour was detected including along Attunga Road, from the tip to the corner of Railway Parade and along Railway Pde, from the corner of Attunga Rd to about 190 Railway Pde.
- There is potential fugitive landfill gas emissions could travel beyond the boundary under particular meteorological and operational conditions.
- Odour included landfill (putrid garbage) landfill gas (rotten egg gas, putrid garbage and green waste (herbaceous)
- There is a direct link between detectable odour of green waste character and the tip’s shredding schedule.
The Odour Unit recommended:
- Using biocover material where ‘fugitive gas leakage pathways’ are a problem
- upgrade the capacity of the current leachate system (a new aeration pump has been ordered)
- evaluate the effectiveness of the landfill gas management system
- consider semi enclosing the shredder
- update current air quality plans
The council meeting was told the ongoing movement of stockpiled materials “appears to have eroded the capping layer that ordinarily would prevent gas escape”. Action was taken in June to move the stockpiles to enable additional cover material to be placed and compacted on the platform to prevent gas escape”.
The council was told some residents had appealed for the tip’s closure. But closing down the tip would lead to 70 per cent rate rises, as landfill would need to be sent off the Mountains. There were ongoing loans of $22.8 million on the tip due to previous infrastructure upgrades – those loans were being paid through tip weighbridge gate revenues. Closing the tip would also increase the risk of dumping.
Since the report, council has run a workshop with staff, The Odour Unit and the EPA and consulted with community. Council is regularly updating 200 neighbouring homes, although was told only five households responded to invites to meetings in December and February.
Council has no plans to extend the range of the tip, but the mayor has asked for the new council to be fully briefed on all the issues, including timelines, ways of mitigating costs to ratepayers, and the introduction of full organics. The EPA has endorsed the action plan.
“This tip has a finite life … the new council needs to look at the life cycle and a transition out plan that minimises impacts on residents,” the mayor said.
“Staff are making exceptional progress with the action plan since the meeting which has been endorsed by the EPA.
“I am happy that this work is going ahead well because what the residents have been reporting is true, they shouldn’t have to live like that and our actions have made a difference. I am so glad they came to me.”