Dear Beagle Editor,
Before the Narooma meeting on the Brou tip I asked a few written questions to Council. Council have now replied today (their letter dated Feb 20th, 2017) (see extract below)
Apart from the same dodgy statements, like testing was “generally” within guidelines (apparently if you don’t look at all the results?) we are assured that…
“THE EPA ADVISED THAT THEY CONDUCTED A REVIEW OF 10 YEARS OF DATA RELATED TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING OF BROU LANDFILL AND THAT THERE WERE NO SIGNIFICANT ISSUES IDENTIFIED.”
The problem here is that council are required by their EPA tip licence to regularly test on private land next to the tip and publicly post the results. But council were exposed in the meeting (by The Beagle editor) for not doing any testing outside their own tip as required (as according to councils own blank public records, which show the last 4 years).
This was backed up by the private adjacent land owner saying, at that same meeting, that council had NEVER come on to his land to test!
At the meeting neither the EPA or council attempted to deny that NO testing had been done.
So the letter "advising that they (EPA) conducted a review of 10 years of data related to environmental monitoring of Brou landfill and there were no significant issues identified" appears not only to be an attempt to mislead the community, but also to apparently falsify the investigation results for the benefit of council.
Is protecting this councils management really worth risking the health of the whole community? Apparently the EPA and councils waste manager think so? What are your thoughts about the reply as you were present at the meeting?
Damien Rogers Moruya Dear Damien, Thank you for your letter and for passing on the Council reply. The Council reply dealt with two matters (Brou Tip and Broulee leachate). I will respond to the section regarding Brou Tip.
Paragraph 1 is correct. The first section of Paragraph 2 is also correct. From the samples taken it was clearly explained by EPA that no toxicity was detected. Note that “toxicity” is the key word that defines if the water was in fact “toxic” or not by way of the EPA example given that “toxic” water would kill more than 10% of bugs exposed to any given sample. What is NOT stated here is that the EPA offered NO explanation of the elevated levels of heavy metals that were found (by an independent lab test commissioned by the adjacent farmer) to be in the sediment samples collected and also provided to the EPA by the farmer. There was conjecture offered by EPA that the pollution might have come from another source and that, with no evidence of overland pollution, Council should therefore be exonerated as being a polluter. This “excuse” did not sit well with those in the meeting and soon after it was revealed in questioning that NO Background tests had been carried out for comparisons. Suggestions by the EPA that the petrol and heavy metals may have come from the highway (without any evidence) was also deemed as unfounded (and unprofessional) conjecture. That brings us to the last sentence of the second paragraph “ In addition the EPA advised that they conducted a review of 10 years of data related to environmental monitoring of Brou landfill and there were no significant issues found”. This is correct in as much as the results reviewed ONLY data that came from within the Tip site and only data provided by Council. It was admitted, when pressed, that testing at Point 4, the only testing point outside of the tip area was never carried out in the ten years mentioned and that whilst Council directed the public to review the environmental monitoring data on their website such an investigation of the website data would reveal there was NO testing carried out at all at Point 4. So Council is correct that “no significant issues” have been found simply because they have never tested there. This was confirmed by the farmer who stated very clearly that neither Council nor the EPA had ever come on to his property to conduct tests as required by the license. Nor had they ever come on to his property following two major leachate overflow events in 2012 and 2016 and many smaller breaches to either observe or take samples. Those at the meeting learnt that Council had also failed to inform adjacent landowners of spills as required by the protocols of its own management plans and the requirements of the license. Whilst Council might feel that, by the EPA report being presented, the testing and comparison of two water samples that showed no “toxicity” exonerated them of any negligence in polluting the issue still remains of the high metal levels measured in the farmers second sediment sample and the fact that thick viscous material has materialized on his property that has revealed (by EPA tests) a high hydrocarbon content (petrol). The Bega District News reports that Bega Valley Shire Council have been fined $15,000 for failing to properly comply with a condition of its operating licence following the runoff of stormwater from its Central Waste Facility reached Wolumla Creek. By Council’s own admission to the Narooma News (Dec 19th, 2016) “Groundwater and surface water are monitored regularly as required by the Environment Protection Licence issued by the NSW State Government for Brou waste facility. Testing results do not indicate further investigation is required,” a statement from the council read. Note that the groundwater monitoring referred to is only within the tip area and not downstream of the tip within the watercourse, paddocks and wetlands. Note also that the level of the test sample is above the low point of the adjacent farmers land. Note that there was a lengthy discussion at the meeting advising EPA that there was a high probability of several subsurface aquifers in that area and that a single test point (within the tip site) was inadequate to determine groundwater contamination elsewhere.
“The leachate pond did overflow during the extreme weather in June 2016 and council’s adopted protocols for notifying the EPA were observed. EPA officers attended the site after the event as a result of complaints received and carried out their own investigation." Note that while Council’s protocols for notifying the EPA were observed Council failed to notify adjacent landowners as per its Tip Management Plan in reference to a Severity Three which is the highest Severity applied when leachate breaches the dam walls and escapes into neighbouring properties and water courses. Note that Council advised the Narooma News that “EPA officers attended the site after the event as a result of complaints received”. This indicates the Council were not the ones who requested the EPA to attend the site following a breach of the leachate wall. On the request of the farmer the EPA did attend the site – three weeks after the event by which time the viscous material had been washed downstream into Brou Creek by a second rain event. The Narooma News reported : “The council spokesperson acknowledged the adjoining landowners were not notified.” “However, this will be rectified in the instance of any future incidents and adjoining landowners will be notified should the leachate pond overflow,” she said.”
The above statement is a public admission of a serious breach of protocol especially in light of the farmer having the well being of grazing stock to consider
“Council conducts groundwater and surface water testing in accordance with the EPA requirements and also tested the water escaping the site during the peak rain event in June. All test results were forwarded to the EPA by council.” Note that the above response indicates that Council carried out its own testing of the leachate overflow and provided those tests to the EPA. Those results referred to are not on Council’s website contrary to the last line of Council’s reply to Mr Rogers (above). “Also tested the water escaping the site”. This can only mean one location – Test Point 4 - contained within the adjacent property – it is a clearly defined point on the EPA license, and according to the farmer, a test point that neither Council nor the EPA had attended in the ten years referred to.
Above: Not the location of Test Point 4 - It is the only test point outside of the Tip Boundary and is located in a remnant low point that channels to a creek and wetland which feed into Brou Creek (Whittakers) and Brou Lake
So why didn’t Council advise the neighbours of the considerable breaches of leachate flowing over the dam in both 2012 and 2016 or of the many small breaches during other rain events. Why didn’t Council test Point 4 when they claim that they did in their statement “Also tested the water escaping the site” and if they did when did they test it and where are the test results. Why did Council ignore the adjacent farmer (as stated by the farmer at the meeting) when he attempted to provide samples of the water and sediment following the 2016 breach only to then have the EPA accept the samples and confirm that they had been collected using correct field sample collection techniques. And why was an adjacent farmers complaint the catalyst for the EPA to carry out testing and to call a public hearing? In light of the severe Bega Valley Council $15,000 fine for stormwater overflow from an empty tip dam into a creek (not leachate) why have there been no consequences bought against Eurobodalla Council for far more serious breaches? Sadly we often forget that a Council fine is paid entirely by ratepayers. Why has there been no comment made by Eurobodalla Council or by the licensor (EPA) that, as a matter of urgency, the Brou Tip management plan must be reviewed? How is it that letters from Council (such as the above) are still in denial that there is any remaining issue and that everything is above board where in fact the essential ground water tests over several locations on the adjacent property and the associated sediment tests of both the paddocks and of the creek and lake bed, as agreed to be undertaken by the EPA, and clearly advised to those attending the meeting have not been carried out nor results publicly tabled.
So Damien, thank you for asking for my opinion of Council's response. As you say "Serious Stuff!" and from Council's response to you I believe that they are not taking the matter seriously. No doubt the wise ones of the discussion forum will now also their views. The Editor