Woodlawn Bioreactor fined $8,000 for unbearable smell

Veolia Environmental Services (Australia) Pty Ltd, which operates the Woodlawn Bioreactor – a waste facility in Tarago NSW, has been issued a Penalty Infringement Notice for $8,000 by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for causing an odour so offensive that it unreasonably interfered with the comfort of a nearby resident.

In mid-January 2015, the EPA received a complaint from a neighbour of the waste facility who was experiencing nausea and dry retching because a high intensity odour was present inside his house.

In line with standard practice, the EPA requested that the company provide a report on the incident. It was clear that the company had experienced a failure in their landfill gas and leachate management systems at the time of the reported odour.

Cate Woods, Head of Waste Compliance Wollongong, NSW EPA, said the EPA takes all instances of verified environmental impacts on the community very seriously.

“When people in NSW feel that their level of comfort in their own home has been impacted by the activities of the waste industry, the EPA is the regulatory authority that these people can look to for assistance.

"We know that landfill odour can significantly interfere with a person’s quality of life, causing a range of effects such as nausea, headaches, retching, reduce appetite and poor quality sleep,” he said.

The EPA investigation into the incident found significant evidence supporting the neighbours’ claim.

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO) a licensee must not cause or permit the emission of any offensive odour from the premises to which the licence applies.

Veolia Environmental Services has previously been issued with penalty notices when it was found to have breached its licence conditions by for venting landfill gas directly into the atmosphere and for failing to complete a pollution reduction program on time.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/130251epacompl.htm.