While Australia grapples with the flow-on effects of China’s ban on imported material for recycling, landfills in Melbourne’s west continue to grow and residents say their concerns have been ignored and brushed off by the state Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
A new report, Raising a stink, details stories from western suburbs communities that are struggling for environmental justice while having huge rubbish tips and toxic waste dumps imposed on them.
Raising a stink outlines community concerns, including that Victoria’s EPA:
- Issued ‘global works approvals’ to allow rubbish tips in the west to keep adding new dump areas for up to 40 years without needing to seek subsequent approvals
- Advised residents who live near the Ravenhall and Werribee landfills to provide evidence of bad smells by trapping the smells in odour collection canisters (rather than employing readily available gas and odour monitoring equipment)
- Failed to monitor air quality at the Tullamarine hazardous waste landfill for 15 years
- Failed to stop the spread of a plume of contaminated groundwater from the Tulla toxic dump
- Failed to ban toxic fluorescent tubes from landfills, even though they have been banned from tips in parts of Europe and the USA since the 1990s
- Uses a ‘safe toxicity’ threshold that assumes an industrial context – which is inappropriate for protecting nearby residents, who are there (and thereby exposed) all the time
- Generally relies on industry to self-report problems.
“The western suburbs have for too long been used as the dumping ground for the rest of Melbourne,” said Environmental Justice Australia lawyer and Raising a stink author Dr Chris Atmore.
“While rubbish tips in other parts of Melbourne are being progressively closed, the huge landfills in Werribee, Ravenhall and Wollert keep getting bigger and bigger, filled in part by rubbish being trucked across the Westgate Bridge from the eastern suburbs,” she said.
“This report shows the EPA is not the strong and effective regulator Victorians expect it to be and too often it has been ineffective in addressing the concerns of local residents.
“Three state government processes – the review of the Environment Protection Act, the reform of the EPA’s culture, and the development of a whole-of-government environmental justice strategy – are at a critical stage; we will measure them against the benchmarks in this report.
“Communities in Melbourne’s west are crying out for genuine access to appropriate justice processes that allow environmental harms to be remedied,” she said.
Report: Raising a stink (PDF, 3MB)
Media release: Community to challenge growth of ‘Werribee Mountain’