By Kate Taylor and Helen Tatchell
There remains, more questions than answers about the state government’s potential plan to dump contaminated soil in Maddingley.
So far, the community has been told that the Maddingley Brown Coal (MBC) site is one of three locations in Victoria being considered as a dumping ground for toxic soil that is coming out of the West Gate tunnel Project and that “low levels of PFAS have been identified as being in the soil where tunnelling will be carried out.”
Transurban and its builder are working with their project partners and the EPA to find a long-term solution to manage the rock and soil that will be created during tunnelling.
A council spokesperson confirmed senior council officers had an initial briefing with Maddingly Brown Coal and Westgate Tunnel project representatives – but “has not received information or any reports on amenity, infrastructure, economic or environment impacts”.
“Moorabool Shire Council has raised concerns about the proposal to all parties involved. Council has reiterated several times that it is the utmost of importance that if the proposal is to be approved, the community, amenity, infrastructure, economic and environment impacts are considered and appropriately mitigated. Council has also requested genuine public consultation prior to any decision being made,” the spokesperson told the Moorabool News.
Member for Buninyong Michaela Settle said she has not attended a briefing with Maddingley Brown Coal and did not respond if she had been briefed by her own Labor state government on the subject.
“I have not attended a briefing with MBC. This week, I have had my regular monthly meeting with CEO Derek Madden. This meeting covered a range of issues but did not include a briefing,” Ms Settle told the Moorabool News.
However, a council spokesperson said both local members, including Member for Melton Steve McGhie, have been included in correspondence from council to the state government on the issue.
The situation has left Moorabool Mayor Cr David Edwards calling on the state government to provide more information – or at least reply to the letters that council has been sending.
“Look, MBC hasn’t done anything wrong here – they’re a business, they create jobs in our town, that’s a good thing. Our problem is the state government consultation on exactly what’s happening,” Mayor Edwards told the Moorabool News.
He said council has written to the state government three times so far and not received a response.
“If this is to go ahead, we understand that the soil has to go somewhere, but we need to know if our roads can handle it with all the trucks, that the soil won’t contaminate and ruin our millions of dollars-worth of market gardens in the future, that it won’t impact the school – they are some of the things we need to know. But we don’t know.
“Transurban and the other parties involved aren’t a concern for us, our concern is that the state government follows the procedures.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Transurban told the Moorabool News it is well-equipped to undertake stakeholder consultation as well as to meet all environmental and planning requirements.
“We’re continuing to work with project parties and EPA Victoria, and have made good progress towards securing appropriate sites for the safe management of tunnel spoil. Any facilities that are considered will have stringent environmental controls in place to protect the community,” she said.
However, the current MBC permit does not allow for any hazardous waste on site – it is illegal for any hazardous or prescribed industrial waste to be “let in or past the entrance gate”.
Despite questions to Minister Jacinta Allen’s office, the exact classification of the tunnel spoil has not been revealed – meaning nobody has been told if it is officially classed as Prescribed Industrial Waste or what contaminants the soil contains.
A government spokesperson from Ms Allen’s office said there are a number of sites being considered and Maddingley Brown Coal is one site that has put forward a proposal.”
“The need to effectively manage soil was clearly identified during the planning assessment process.
An outcome of the planning process is that soil must be managed in accordance with EPA requirements.”
The Moorabool News asked Cr Edwards if he had any information on the rumours that contaminated soil had already been taken to the Maddingley site, or that soil would be ‘stored there’ instead of ‘disposed of’, or that the soil was going to be transported there and only tested once it arrived.
In answering the question, Cr Edwards took another swipe at the lack of information and consultation from the state government.
“I’ve heard lots of rumours in the last week and conspiracy theories and I suppose these are brought about by a lack of facts,” he said.
“At the moment we just want to be assured that all the rigors that normally would be applied are applied. The last thing we need is a rushed decision to meet contractual obligations. But there’s just an endless amount of questions that, had they been addressed, would have created far less hysteria.”
A spokesperson for MBC said, “because it is developing a commercially sensitive proposal there is no comment to make at this time.”
Responses were not received from Member for Melton Steve McGhie and contractor for the project John Holland.
**SEE PAGE 11 for EPA and Bacchus Marsh Grammar responses.