Community news updates

Community updates on issues currently being managed by the EPA.

EPA officer inspecting waste facility near Coffs Harbour

In 2021 we investigated odour emissions impacting members of the local community at the Englands Road Waste Management Facility operated by Coffs Harbour City Council. Measures were put in place by us to reduce the odour impacts on the community, including the addition of pollution reduction programs (PRPs) to the facility’s environment protection licence.

In early 2022 we received new odour complaints associated with the Englands Road Waste Management Facility. Complainants described these odours as having different characteristics to those from 2021.

The EPA identified Bingo’s Dial-a-Dump facility at Eastern Creek as a major source of odour impacting neighbours earlier this year in April. A range of measures were put in place to reduce the odour impacts on the community, including restrictions to the company’s environment protection licence.

Since then, Bingo has installed a landfill gas extraction system and flare system to burn the gas, destroying odorous gases generated within the landfill. This has seen the odours reduce with less complaints coming into the EPA

The EPA installed seven monitors in the Minchinbury and Eastern Creek area to detect hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg gas). Air quality data results are scheduled to be updated twice weekly.

EPA officer making an inspection in the field

Hydrogen sulfide monitoring will continue to ensure the odour control measures remain effective. Odour patrols by EPA staff are also used when needed.

Our investigation into potential breaches of legislation and licence requirements is ongoing, and regulatory action will be taken where appropriate.

Regulatory action, such as issuing fines, can take time as it requires evidence gathering that may need to be presented to a Court.

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

Bowral waste centre

In June 2021 many residents in Bowral reported unpleasant odours to the EPA. The EPA tracked the source of the odours to landfill gas from the Bowral Waste Centre in Kiama Street. The EPA  fined the Bowral Waste Centre Pty Ltd $15,000 in June 2021 for alleged poor landfill management practices, which likely contributed to the odours. 

The EPA required Bowral Waste Centre to improve waste covering practices and install a system that captures landfill gas and destroys it and the odours. Complaints about odours ceased almost immediately.

Further reports of unpleasant smoky odours in the community re-commenced in late November 2021. The EPA used thermal imaging technology to investigate. Following a review of landfill gas data, Bowral Waste Centre advised of a low intensity fire (or smoulder) within the landfill. This was potentially a source of these odours.

The EPA required Bowral Waste Centre to urgently develop a plan to supress the fire and minimise odour impacts on the surrounding community. The EPA also required the company to keep the community informed of the actions it was taking.

Bowral Waste Centre undertook works in December 2021 to reduce oxygen getting into the landfill and exacerbating the smoulder. These works saw gas concentrations and temperatures reduce in the landfill and odour complaints ceased quickly.

From 7 December 2021 until 1 March 2022 the EPA undertook air quality monitoring at residential areas adjacent to the landfill site. The air quality monitoring instruments did not detect any pollutant levels of concern or give any indication of odours.

The EPA continues to treat this issue as a priority, conducting odour checks and ensuring that Bowral Waste Centre continues to manage the landfill fire to stop any odour impacts on the Bowral community.

Residents who do experience odours are encouraged to make a report to the EPA’s 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555. We appreciate the community’s willingness to stay in touch and keep us informed.

Aerial shot of Woodlawn landfill

Veolia Environmental Solutions (Australia) Pty Ltd (Veolia) has made commitments to the NSW Government and community in relation to the expected environmental operation and performance of the landfill. We expect Veolia to honour those commitments.

The EPA and DPE Planning are working together to ensure that Veolia have appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent offensive odours from the Woodlawn Landfill and Veolia comply with all statutory requirements in major project approvals and environment protection licences. This includes:

  • A longer-term infrastructure program to manage water run-off into the landfill is in the final stages of being implemented.
  • Veolia is required by the EPA to complete additional leachate treatment plant works by July 2022. Additional infrastructure will increase water extraction from the landfill to improve the efficiency of the gas extraction system.
  • Additional landfill surface gas monitoring to assist in continuous improvements in landfill gas management.
  • Follow up on Annual Independent Odour Audit (major project approval) recommendations to mitigate odours including improvements to landfill gas collection efficiency and water management in the Bioreactor and use of biofiltration material to cover fugitive landfill gas emission points.
  • An investigation into hydrogen sulphide gas emissions (rotten-egg smell) at the landfill was undertaken as a Pollution Reduction Program on the licence
  • An EPA hydrogen sulphide - ‘rotten egg’ gas study was conducted from September 2021 to November 2021 (6 weeks) in the Tarago area.  The results are published on the EPA website.

The EPA encourages residents who experience odours to report to the 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555.

The EPA fined Veolia $15,000 for alleged leaking containers carrying waste in July 2021.

The EPA encourages residents who experience odours to report to the 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555.

suburban train pulling into a station

Waverton and Wollstonecraft Rail Noise Mitigation

Sydney Trains fined

The EPA has issued Sydney Trains with a $15,000 Penalty Notice for failure to maintain railway track on Sydney’s North Shore Line.

Poor track maintenance between Waverton and Wollstonecraft Railway Stations has resulted in excessive noise impacts to nearby residents.

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 engaged an independent train noise specialist to undertake a critical review of rail noise mitigation works conducted by Sydney Trains to date at Waverton and Wollstonecraft.

The review concluded that Sydney Trains’ maintenance of the railway track had failed to control and progressively reduce noise impacts. The ineffective maintenance of the railway remains a key failing that has prevented appropriate noise mitigation.

Sydney Trains has also commissioned its own independent study to examine rail acoustics, track engineering and wheel/rail dynamics to assist in determining additional noise mitigation options. The results of this study will inform a range of ongoing and future works to reduce noise impacts at Waverton and Wollstonecraft.

The EPA has received a plan from Sydney Trains to perform further maintenance and is engaging with Sydney Trains to ensure that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible. 
aerial view of kembla grange

We continue to investigate reports of odours in the Farmborough Heights and Kembla Grange areas.  We are undertaking odour surveys of the area and inspections of Whytes Gully Waste Disposal Facility managed by Wollongong City Council (EPL 5862) and Soilco Kembla Grange (EPL 13171).

In response to many odour complaints in the summer of 2020-2021 from residents in Farmborough Heights, we attached conditions to the licences of both facilities in March 2021, requiring an independent odour assessment with reports and recommendations.

The independent odour assessments for Whytes Gully Waste Disposal Facility and Soilco did not identify a particular premises or activity as the source of odour, but recommended the modification of operational and site management practices that could contribute to an reduction of odour impacts in the Kembla Grange Precinct.

The recommendations for the Whytes Gully facility included evaluating the landfill gas management systems and seeking ways to manage potential fugitive gas emissions, upgrading the leachate management system, and updating the air quality and odour management plans. The recommendations for SoilCo included minimising exposed odour sources (such as greenwaste), minimising stockpiled material onsite, minimising the time when the shed doors are opened, minor changes to the biofilter operation, and ensuring any spills of odorous material outside the shed are cleaned up as soon as possible.  We will continue to work with the licensees towards the implementation of these recommendations.

SoilCo has constructed a new facility at 132 West Dapto Road, Kembla Grange (adjacent to the existing site), where the management and control of odours has been a key consideration. The new site is expected to be commissioned shortly.

We will continue to closely monitor the ongoing environmental performance of the regulated facilities to ensure each premises has controls and practices in place to prevent emissions of offensive odours in accordance with environmental protection licence conditions.

Community reports can play an important role in our investigation of odours.

Can the odour affect my health?

Everyone reacts to odours differently and some people can be more sensitive to odours than others. For example, people with asthma. Symptoms can vary depending on your sensitivity, age, state of health, and the frequency, duration, and strength of the odour. If you are sensitive to odours you may experience some symptoms, even at low concentrations which may include  irritation of eyes, nose and throat, headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath. Repeated exposures to odours can also understandably cause anxiety and distress and result in indirect symptoms such as headaches. Symptoms generally occur at the time of exposure and will pass once the odour is gone. However where the odour concentration is high or the duration is extended, some symptoms may persist after the odour is gone.

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 local General Practitioner.

(Information provided by NSW Health)

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.