Is Brou Lake under threat from Brou Tip
Council’s recent confirmation that the Brou Tip leachate pond overflowed in June 2016 due to heavy rain doesn’t come as any surprise to those in the community who have been watching the expansion and performance of this tip for some time. In 2011 Council transported tankers of leachate from the Tip to the sewerage treatment works. In February 2010 there were falls in excess of 300ml in 8 hours preceded by approx. 200ml in a 24 hour period. The week prior to that also featured consistent rainfall. The next event was in July 2010 with again higher than average rainfalls, followed by continual periods of rain and low temperatures. Rainfall in December 2010 and March 2011 was also significant. With a predicted high Council then decide to obtain approval to transport leachate to the Kianga sewage works. Council’s 2011 decision raised questions from the community. Many believed that while the district experienced heavier than usual rain events, Brou tip’s design parameters ought to have accommodated them. They were also concerned for the leachate that had traversed over paddocks and the potential for the toxic mix to make it into Lake Brou. In June 2011 Eurobodalla Shire Council was also being pushed to conduct tests of the groundwater supply at Broulee, adjacent to the old Broulee tip, where it had been strongly alleged (and still is) that Council dumped tankers of toxic leachate at an old tip site in the early 1990s. Some background to Beagle readers and the new Eurobodalla Councillors; On Friday, June 03, 2011 answers were provided to the following questions raised by Councillor Graham Scobie on behalf of a concerned ratepayer regarding Brou Tip.  Does the design, construction, extension and maintenance of Brou tip comply with original planning commitments; including essential environmental safeguards and undertakings? Yes – staged extensions. DA condition in relation to the improvements to the access road is still in the planning phase.
 Were the dams, ponds and channels intended to collect drainage and run-off from the tip, including provision for excessive [100 year] rain events, completed in accordance with original specifications? The leachate dam was constructed in accordance with the specifications as part of the most recent extension of the site in 2005/06. Other site drainage is designed to ensure all water flows to the leachate dam, sediment pond, stormwater pond or off site as required.
 If answers to  +  are affirmative, why was it necessary to use tankers to remove leachate from Brou tip to prevent ponds overflowing? The first significant rainfall was in February 2010. There were falls in excess of 300ml in 8 hours precede by approx 200ml in a 24 hour period. The week prior to this also featured consistent rainfall. The next event was in July 2010 with again higher than average rainfalls, followed by continual periods of rain and low temperatures which hampers transpiration when irrigating. The rainfall in December 2010 and March 2011 was also significant and further predicted high rainfall supported the decision to obtain an approval for transporting liquid trade waste to the sewage treatment plant.
 What costs are involved in extracting, transporting and disposing of leachate in this manner ? The cost was $13,865.
 Does Council consider it’s reliance on this practice to be safe and efficient? This option was taken to ensure the site did not discharge from the leachate pond to the environment in extreme weather conditions.
 Were Council’s sewerage treatment works designed with capacity to process toxic waste of this volume and concentration? The sewage treatment plant could adequately accept and treat the volumes transported. The liquid transported was from the top of the pond and could not be classified as toxic waste, rainwater would be a more accurate description. Council sought and obtained approval from NSW Office of Water to treat the leachate waters at the Sewage Treatment Plant.
 Is it true that a temporary road within the tip was to have been replaced by a more substantial road via a different route, but remains in use long after waste has been deposited too close for soil from the road to be removed without undermining the waste? The road that was established to service the site is still in use. The excavation to extend the existing cell to its full potential will require the removal of the road. The road can be removed without undermining the waste. The project was to commence in 2010/11 and has been deferred to 2011/12.
 Is it also true that the profile formed by waste deposited at the tip is already many metres higher than the assurances that were given to neighbouring property owners? The final height of the landfill will conform with the adopted Site Management Plan final contours.
 Are Council’s options for finding alternative sites for depositing waste very limited and the prospective cost of establishing additional facilities very high? Yes.
 Has management properly acquainted Councillors with the situation and placed Councillors in a position to assess what action should be taken to safeguard the Shire’s longer term interests? The issues have been highlighted to the focus group for The Community Strategic Plan conducted by Council’s Strategic Planning department. The potential extension of Surf Beach and the proposed concept designs have been presented to Council in a workshop. A number of recent initiatives have been introduced to reduce waste to landfill and preserve the valuable space e.g. recycling of mattresses, all tyres (no shredded tyres to landfill), E-waste (including televisions), drums (Drum Muster).
Following on from Council’s responses of June 2011 regarding the Brou Tip incident the final question raised, and left unanswered, is “If the liquid transported was “from the top of the pond and could not be classified as toxic waste, rainwater would be a more accurate description”, why was it necessary to discharge it elsewhere?” There are still several outstanding concerns regarding the functionality and design of Brou Tip from that period. In the original design of Brou Tip it was always intended to increase the existing area (double in size) to ensure that evaporation was maximised and to utilise existing drainage infrastructure for the return of unevaporated leachate to the leachate pond. In 2010 it was considered that Council appeared to be shifting the irrigation area to another location when it was observed, on site, that the evaporation area was being dug up and rubbish from the rubbish trucks was being dumped in that area. It is understood by an informed Beagle contributor that: - When council negotiated approvals for establishing Brou tip with NSW regulatory authorities it was necessary to provide assurances that council would deal responsibly with toxic drainage / leachate.
- The design of the tip was intended to manage liquid toxic wastes and avoid contamination of surrounding areas by a process of 'irrigation', evaporation and containment in evaporation ponds.
In watching the evaporation area becoming a dump site and learning of the transportation of leachate for processing off-site questions formed as to whether Council had departed substantially from the original plan, and from assurances given at the time adopting more expedient arrangements.
With the recent discovery of possible leachate escape and contamination through groundwater as reported in the Narooma News Dec 19th, 2016 questions once again are being asked of Brou Tip’s future planning and safeguards and its capacity to control leachate during heavy rains. Council’s response to the recent Narooma News story was to confirm that the leachate pond did overflow in June 2016 and that the rainfall was beyond the design requirements of the leachate pond.
Council also acknowledged in that same article that adjoining landowners were not notified as is required. The Narooma News article reported that an adjacent landowner had now conducted his own tests on the liquid material that had appeared on his property. His independent laboratory results show hydrocarbons, zinc and arsenic at elevated levels in the water. Tests of adjacent sediment reveal counts of heavy metals and elements beyond acceptable levels.
In light of the wider cast of affected landowners and community now being made aware of the possible breaches of both leachate retention and required communication protocols it will be interesting to see how Council and Councillors will manage the issue when they return to duties in 2017. None of this is new however. Concerned and knowledgeable residents have long identified problems with Brou tip and other Council waste management issues. Back in May 2011 there were concerns raised that construction and extensions of the tip were not completed in accordance with earlier planning commitments nor with essential environmental safeguards and undertakings. It was suggested, via letter, in 2011, to the then ERA, that Council may have neglected to address the situation and respond to warnings and, as a consequence, Council / ratepayers would face substantial increased costs.
Relieved concerned locals understood that environmental issues associated with the tip might have come to attention of the State environment / planning authorities and, as such, this might then initiate follow up audits. However, in time, there was no evidence of this having occurred when reports were requested and none provided. The opinion built that the inspectorial State government agencies were no longer functioning as many felt they should.
All of this came at a time when it was also believed that substantial funds had also been wasted on Council’s waste management contract. The Beagle has been informed that Council was then pursuing a highly sophisticated computerised system that included micro chips in garbage bins, cameras in trucks and control / surveillance capability that recognised the location of individual bins, detecting contamination, providing information for prosecutions and statistics, etc and spent considerable time and money in doing so . Our newly elected Councillors might also be reminded that in June 2011 the Council of the day dealt with a confidential report in regards to Brou Lake and information concerning the nature and location of a place an item of Aboriginal significance on community land.
As a result of that report a motion was put forward by Councillors Kowal and Morton
1.Council write to the Office of Environment and Heritage to support the nomination of
a section of the foreshore of Lake Brou as an Aboriginal Place, and in doing so acknowledge its importance to the local Aboriginal community.
2.It be noted the Local Government Area, County and Parish on the map are incorrect
and the Office of Environment and Heritage be advised to correct the information.
(The Motion on being put was declared CARRIED).
Discussions in social media are now asking questions regarding the possible contamination of Brou Lake that is both a cultural fishing ground and commercial fishing resource. Brou Lake is of major importance to the culture of our aboriginal community who have fished its waters for tens of thousands of years and continue to do so. All parties, including the wider community of consumers of fish and prawns sourced from the lake, are reliant on an assurity from the EPA and Council that the lake and creek are not compromised with leachate contaminates and that in “an event” the community and adjacent land owners will be immediately advised and the extent of the contamination accurately measured along the entire system from tip face to ocean outfall. There are now building concerns that if Council is failing in its management of corralling toxic leachate from the tip, failing to advise the community and failing to proactively test outside of the boundaries of the tip property then the lake and creek might already be contaminated or, have the potential to be contaminated. Social media page “EuroLeaks” is encouraging the community to read the Narooma News article and is asking “Will the Minister now finally open a real investigation of council and the EPA?”
In light of the recent reports, and with the above background, the new Eurobodalla councillors will hopefully call for an open transparent report from Council staff regarding the capacity of the Brou Tip and its proposed expansion to hold 100% of the leachate with 0% risk of contaminating adjacent lands and waterways. It is also hoped, following the Narooma News article, that Councillors will seek the required tests to be carried out outside the boundaries of the tip, specifically at the area identified as a “spring”. With a backlog of alleged outstanding “breaches” elsewhere in the Shire including Batemans Bay, Broulee, Moruya and Dalmeny, it is suggested that these locations and claims also be transparently tested and publicly reported on.
Above: Brou tip sits at the crest of a catchment that has access to wetlands, Whittakers Creek and Brou Lake. Many believe that breaches in the tip leachate ponds could easily access ground waters.