Community news updates

Community updates on issues currently being managed by the EPA.

EPA officer inspecting waste facility near Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour odours investigation

The NSW EPA has been investigating numerous reports of offensive odours in the vicinity of the Coffs Harbour City Council Landfill and the Biomass waste processing facility at Englands Road, North Boambee since early April 2021.

The EPA has received reports from both Biomass’s and Council’s independent experts as to their odour sources and solutions to deal with odour issues. These have now been assessed by the EPA.

Coffs Harbour City Council has advised the EPA that its independent industry expert had identified the landfill as the likely source of the odour.

Council has engaged experts to assist it in mitigating the issue. Amongst other things Council has since reduced the size of the face of their landfill and added additional capping to help seal in the odours.

The has also varied Council’s Environment Protection Licence (on 11/6/2021) by by adding a pollution reduction program (PRP) to put in place measures to remedy its landfill odour issue.

The PRP requires Council

  • Ensure that the landfill capping material is placed  over the problematic area of the landfill.
  • Undertake landfill fume testing to ensure the fumes are adequately controlled.
  • Review current odour management strategies to identify opportunities to improve odour management and reduce odour emissions from the facility.
  • Implement a monitoring program.
  • Provide a copy of the landfill gas extraction system review report by 2 July 2021.

The EPA continues to monitor the landfill with twice daily inspections. We will consider taking further regulatory action if necessary to resolve the odour issue.

Minchinbury odours investigation

Community questions and answers

On Saturday 8 May, EPA representatives met with community members in Minchinbury Council Carpark to listen to their experiences and answer questions.

EPA officer making an inspection in the field

The EPA is holding Bingo to account for the offensive odours that have been impacting the local community in the Eastern Creek/Minchinbury area in western Sydney.

Following an odour survey campaign and investigations by the EPA, the Bingo Dial-A-Dump Eastern Creek landfill has been confirmed as the major source of the odours, ratified by independent odour specialists engaged by the EPA.

As a result the EPA has required Bingo to take immediate steps to prevent odours leaving the site and their environment protection licence has been amended to include these actions.

Bingo must apply a layer of 300 mm of clean soil across the entire landfill to reduce the potential for odours from this surface, limit wastes accepted at the landfill to waste that does not smell, and reduce the area used for active landfill operations.

These actions will help hold in landfill gas (rotten egg smell) and rubbish smells, reduce rain reaching the waste and reduce future gas generation.

The licence changes also prohibit the use of alternate cover materials, which could also generate smells, and reduce the amount of waste that can be landfilled.

Bingo must also monitor the landfill gas level every day it operates and notify the EPA immediately if landfill gas is evident.

Bingo is currently installing new infrastructure to collect and treat odorous landfill gas from the highest priority areas. The collected gas will be destroyed onsite using a gas flare to reduce impacts to the surrounding community.

In addition to treating gas from priority areas, this infrastructure will inform the development of licence conditions requiring Bingo to develop additional landfill gas collection measures.

The EPA will conduct regular odour patrols around the landfill and local community at various times of the day to check these measures have been effective.

It is an offence under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act for licenced premises to emit offensive odours.

Failure to comply with licence conditions can result in regulatory action including prosecution and penalties.

The licence changes follow the EPA issuing Bingo with a Clean-Up Notice on Friday 23 April 2021 to fix a broken landfill pipe and vent emitting a rotten egg odour. These pipes have now been fixed and covered with activated carbon to filter the air.

More than 350 reports of offensive odours have been made by community members since April 1.

Residents from Minchinbury, Mt Druitt, St Clair, Erskine Park, Horsley Park and Eastern Creek have complained about rotten egg gas, sulphur and foul chemical smells.

Residents who continue to experience odour are encouraged to report it with details to the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555.

The EPA will keep the community updated via our website and social media channels.

Aerial shot of Woodlawn landfill

Tarago area odours investigation

The EPA is aware residents in the Tarago area have been impacted by unpleasant odours.

The EPA has investigated more than 100 complaints received about offensive odour from the Woodlawn Landfill this year, the majority received since April. The landfill is operated by Veolia Environmental Solutions (Australia) Pty Ltd.

As a result of the EPA’s investigation, the cause of the odour is believed to be fugitive gas emissions from the waste mass. Veolia has been instructed to address the emissions with the installation of additional gas collection equipment, by covering odour emission points with biofiltration material which will help to block the smell and bringing in additional gas monitoring.

A longer term infrastructure program to manage leachate is in the final stages of being commissioned and this should also help manage odours at the site.

The EPA is working to ensure Veolia’s actions are effective and the impacts on the community are addressed.

The EPA encourages residents who experience odour to report to the 24 hour Enviro Line on 131 555. All complaints received are looked in to and provide valuable information about odour spread, trends and impact.

We will keep the community updated via our website and social media channels.

To minimise exposure to odours, residents are advised to close doors and windows and seal entry points. At times of no, or low odour levels, it is important to ventilate your home to prevent build-up of odours in indoor air.

If residents are concerned about their symptoms or if symptoms persist once the odours have ceased, they should seek advice from their General Practitioner.

suburban train pulling into a station

Waverton and Wollstonecraft Rail Noise Mitigation

The EPA has commissioned an independent consultant to review the work conducted at Waverton and Wollstonecraft to mitigate rail noise.

Waverton and Wollstonecraft railway stations are located on the tightest curves on the Sydney Trains rail network. These tight curves cause wheel squeal and flanging noise that affects the local community.

The EPA has worked with Sydney Trains and the local community, including the Waverton Wollstonecraft Rail Noise Action Group (WWRNAG), to address noise concerns. The EPA has required Sydney Trains to undertake Pollution Reduction Programs to identify the cause and identify possible mitigation methods to reduce noise levels in the area, however no clear solutions have emerged to date.

To definitively address this issue the EPA has engaged an independent train noise specialist to undertake a critical review of rail noise mitigation works conducted to date at Waverton and Wollstonecraft.

The consultant will make recommendations regarding the most practical, effective and cost-effective tools and options available to mitigate rail noise at Waverton and Wollstonecraft. The report should include the best option or combination of options available and any in situ trials that may be necessary.

The review is expected to be provided to the EPA for evaluation by mid 2021.

female EPA officer installing noise monitors

Noise in Port Botany

The EPA is aware residents in the Port Botany area are being impacted by noise and we are working collaboratively with industry, local government and government authorities to investigate potential noise sources and any mitigation options.

Residents have complained about low frequency noise and bangs, crashes and beeping. The complaints are mostly at night.

Noise monitoring commissioned late in 2020 by NSW Ports  concluded the largest source of low frequency noise in the area was ships berthed at Port Botany. The report also identified there were other sources of low frequency noise in the area.

Based on these findings the EPA has engaged specialist noise experts to conduct further monitoring to consider non-ship sources of low frequency noise in the Port Botany area.

Noise monitors have been installed at the properties of five residents who have agreed to take part in the EPA’s noise surveys

The EPA is grateful to the residents who will host the monitors for approximately one month.

The monitoring results will be used to help us better understand potential sources of low frequency noise that may be present in the Port Botany area and impacting on surrounding residents.

The EPA will keep the community informed of our investigations.

Port-related noise can be reported to NSW Ports on 1300 922 524, or via the www.nswports.com.au website or via your council.

Noise reports can also be made to the EPA’s 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.

Kembla Grange odours investigation

aerial view of kembla grange

In March 2021, the EPA directed both Wollongong City Council and Soilco Pty Ltd to complete odour studies into the offensive odours impacting residents in Farmborough Heights and Kembla Grange. This important work has not been completed by the required date of 30 April 2021.

The delay in providing answers to help the community and stop these odours is considered unacceptable and regulatory action in response to these non-compliances is currently being considered. We continue to receive complaints from the community about odours in the area.

The results from the odour studies are to understand if the odour management measures at each facility are appropriate and effective, and will inform decisions about what further actions need to be taken in order to mitigate the odours.

The direction to do the comprehensive odour studies was required as a new licence condition by the EPA on 4 March 2021. The licenses can be found on the EPA Public Register on our website.

Any business regulated by the EPA must ensure they have adequate controls and management practices in place to prevent offensive odours from impacting surrounding neighbours.

We encourage any residents with odour concerns to continue contacting the 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555 to make a report, as all information is helpful.

Captains Flat lead investigation

EPA car outside Captains Flat community centre

The EPA, NSW Health, Regional NSW, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council and other NSW Government agencies are working together at the township of Captains Flat to investigate for high levels of lead, beyond the former Lake George Mine site.

This is precautionary testing in public and community spaces and follows Transport for NSW detecting historical contamination in the rail corridor adjacent to the old Lake George Captains Flat Mine site, at high levels.

  • The EPA has undertaken 80 tests of soil for levels of lead in the township’s road reserves, parks and school, and will share the results with the community.
  • The EPA has also offered soil testing to residents on their own properties.
  • See more information about lead testing in Captains Flat.

Truegain, Rutherford site management

aerial view of the Truegain site

The EPA continues to pursue the owners of the Truegain site, requiring them to manage the site in a way that prevents any offsite pollution.

The EPA has commenced various legal proceedings against the owner, including for allegedly failing to comply with a Clean-Up Notice and Cost Compliance notices.

On 23 February 2021, former director of Truegain Mr Robert Pullinger was convicted and fined in Parramatta Local Court following prosecution by the EPA for providing false information to the EPA and failing to comply with statutory notices to provide information. Mr Pullinger pleaded guilty to the offences.

Proceedings have also commenced against the owner for allegedly failing to comply with a Prohibition Notice issued by the Minister. These proceedings are currently before the courts.

While the court proceedings continue, the EPA has had installed an on-site collection system that allows contaminated water to be collected and disposed of safely. The system is remotely monitored to manage expected and unexpected rainfall events.

This improves on the previous management system where EPA staff regularly inspected the site while also monitoring the weather for predicted heavy rainfall.

The EPA and Fire and Rescue NSW have inspected the laboratory and office building at the front of the site and removed all chemicals from the building for disposal.

The EPA has contacted the owner requiring them to undertake further works to secure the site.

The EPA is currently exploring options for a medium to long-term solution for the Truegain site, which has been abandoned since 2016.

The objective of the project is to reduce any risks to human health and the environment’.

 The tender process has now closed and is being evaluated.

Forestry operations update

The EPA has been advised by Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) that they will shortly revert to operating under the standard forestry rules, meaning logging in new compartments will not use special site specific conditions put in place to protect burnt forests, following the 2019/20 bushfires.

Based on expert advice and the literature the EPA regards site specific conditions as the most effective way of managing the environmental risks associated with harvesting in landscapes that have been so extensively and severely impacted by fire.

Designed following consultation with experts and government agencies, specific conditions aim to mitigate the environmental risks caused by the bushfires and are tailored for the specific impacts on plants, animals and their habitats, soils and waterways at each site.