THE Leongatha South community has vowed to battle a proposal for a $10 million landfill that will be a dumping ground for Melbourne’s waste.
French company Veolia is planning to build the landfill in the massive former quarry on Whitelaws Track to dispose of household and commercial industrial waste like that now dumped at the Koonwarra landfill. No hazard materials or asbestos will be received. The rubbish will come from the Dandenong and possibly Mornington Peninsula shires.
Farmers are concerned about the risk to groundwater, Meeniyan’s drinking water and road standards once the landfill begins operation – in 2018 at the earliest.
Rubbish will be delivered to Leongatha South in 20 trucks a day, travelling through Leongatha via the proposed heavy vehicle alternate route, and then into Koonwarra. Trucks will take Koonwarra-Inverloch Road and then turn into Whitelaws Track to the landfill. The trucks will be A-doubles and will be sealed, but the extra traffic will place increased burden on roads already subject to potholes.
The Leongatha South community has initiated a petition opposing the landfill and can be signed at Leongatha businesses.
Veolia said the former quarry was earmarked as a prospective landfill by the Gippsland Regional Waste Management Group and it was inevitable the tip would be built.
The company has assured the community its international reputation for best practice ensured the landfill would be constructed and operated without impacting the district’s farms or environment.
Veolia faces a tough job convincing the community. By yesterday (Monday), the topic had created significant interest on The Star’s Facebook page, receiving 4700 page views and nearly 40 comments.
Many people opposed the pristine region becoming a dumping ground for Melbourne’s waste.
Leongatha South farmer Ben Croatto summed up community sentiment, fearing for the impact on South Gippsland’s reputation for clean green agricultural produce.
“We give them our meat, fibre and milk, and they give us their rubbish,” he said.
“The milk I send off goes into infant milk formula and they (Melbourne) send us back dirty diapers.”
Mr Croatto said the Australian dairy industry was built on a “clean, green reputation” and a landfill in the heart of dairying country could risk that good name.
“This has the potential to damage the dairy industry once you start damaging the water because all the farms around here are off aquifers,” he said.
Leongatha South dairy farmer Max Behmer labelled the proposal “ridiculous”.
“This is the last place that should have to be getting rid of Melbourne’s garbage,” he said.
“This is Victoria’s foodbowl and they want to dump their rubbish in it.”
Mr Croatto questioned the quarry’s ability to contain leaching, given past explosions on-site and continuing blasting in the new quarry next door.
“There have been thousands of explosions around here and there are going to be cracks in the rock and the water could leach through,” he said.
Mr Behmer was worried water in the bottom of the landfill would turn to sludge that could end up in the water catchment.
Many farmers in the vicinity access water from the aquifer and the nearby Gwyther Creek flows into the Tarwin River which is Meeniyan’s water supply.
Veolia consultant Max Spedding said the landfill would be state of the art to prevent leaching and would have no impact on groundwater or stormwater.
“We believe that because it will be a best practice modern landfill, we can overcome the difficulties with the groundwater and stormwater,” he said.
“Both the groundwater and stormwater, if they are not managed, could get into the Tarwin River, so these are issues we need to address.”
The landfill will have a base layer of one metre of clay, followed by a layer of Bentonite, high density plastic two millimetres thick, cushioning of clay and geotextile, one metre of aggregate from the quarry and a final layer of cushioning.
Project manager Andrew Race said Bentonite swells up to 10 times its volume and would plug any holes in the plastic.
He expects the total lining would withstand earthquakes. He noted the Koonwarra landfill already operates within the Tarwin River catchment.
Veolia briefed South Gippsland Shire Council about the project last Wednesday. Council and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will need to approve permits for the landfill. Veolia is not expected to apply for a permit until 2017.
Mayor Cr Jeanette Harding said the briefing was the first presentation council had received about the proposal.
“From the information given, we understand it’s very early days. Veolia has quite a bit of work to do and we expect council is months from receiving a planning application,” she said.
“If and when we do receive an application, we will ensure the benefits and implications for the local community will be fully reviewed and the community is given every opportunity to give feedback.”
The Star understands the first council heard of the project was when notified by concerned residents seeking answers after receiving letters from Veolia in their mailboxes.
Mr Spedding said council suggested Veolia could find another route for the trucks, with trucks following a circular route via Bass and Koonwarra.
“This is an area that will be looked at very carefully during the planning so we can minimise the traffic impacts,” he said.
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