Operator wants record set straight

The Burra Road landfill site.
The Burra Road landfill site.

The licensee of the Burra Road landfill that takes non-putrescible waste from Visy is calling for an end to allegations that the landfill is leaking, and for the community to embrace the enterprise that is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the town.

MH Earthmoving principal Martin Hay says he has spent around $15,000 to investigate the claims.

“I initiated the investigation because if the landfill was leaking, I wanted to fix it,” he said.

“The report I received back, which both Gundagai Council and the EPA have, proves that the landfill is not leaking.”

With waste one of the world’s largest problems, Mr Hay said he believes he is operating a world class facility in Gundagai, the benefits of which have a flow-on effect in the community.

“It’s creating employment, it’s enabling sponsorship within the town. I’ve sponsored the footy club, minor league, the carp-a-thon, the race club, and I donated $10,000 to finish the skate park. Anything I’m asked to sponsor, I do,” he said.

“I’d like people to embrace this business and what it does for the town instead of trying to tear it down.”

A proposed expansion of the facility would increase capacity of the site to take up to 750,000 tonnes over the next 15 years.

The Gundagai Community Environmental Impact Group (GCEIG) has formed to oppose the expansion, with the group claiming the site is contaminating groundwater.

The report commissioned by Mr Hay and undertaken by specialists in environmental monitoring, shows analytes generally levelling off or slowing down as part of a “mounding effect”, and groundwater remaining stable throughout.

According to the report, bore number 1 is within permissible limits for human consumption.

The report also states that the clay liner has not been compromised, that leachate is not escaping from cell 1 or cell 2, and that the leachate collection system is functioning correctly.

Mr Hay said relentless complaints, the watching of activities at the landfill by those in opposition and the negativity saturating social media is taking its toll.

“I’m being slandered on a Facebook page set up to oppose the expansion, where on that page my business was recently compared to the environmental disaster in the Brazilian village of Bentos Rodrigues that killed 19 people three months ago. It’s just ridiculous, absolute madness,” he said.

“Members of the group formed to oppose this watch us two to three times a week for two to three hours a day. Planes fly over the site taking pictures.”

Mr Hay alleges that the site has been broken into at night and photos taken which were then directed to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

“But again, the EPA couldn’t find any fault,” he said.

“The EPA has been sent to the landfill more than 20 times because of complaints, and they’ve found nothing wrong. EPA officers have been placed under enormous pressure by this. They’ve had to take repeated trips out to the landfill to investigate the barrage of complaints they continue to receive.

“Work Cover has been sent because of complaints about air conditioning not working in machines and trucks, and machines and trucks not being serviced. We’ve got all the proof, all the records and receipts, so, again, they found nothing wrong.

“Work Cover received a complaint that I had purchased my own explosives on the black market and then conducted my own blasting. Again, false.

“They also asked me to provide receipts, which I did, because of claims that I didn’t provide my workers with personal protective equipment.

“Until the expansion development application was submitted, there were absolutely no direct complaints made to me about anything.

“Visy is a great company, world leaders in their industry, and I’m proud to be associated with them. They’ve put a lot back into this district over the years.”

In response to the recent cessation of deliveries, Mr Hay said he voluntarily stopped deliveries at the site amid claims he had exceeded his annual limit of 40,000 tonnes.

He said approval was given by the EPA in October 2013 that dregs and grits, put in the landfill as a daily cover, not count toward the total volume in the landfill, and that no written modifications were made at the time. Mr Hay’s licence was to be amended to reflect this, but the changes were never made.

“I’ve now been told by the EPA that different advice should have been given, but nobody has said a word to me to reflect this in the past two years, and I’ve done nothing differently. I was only told about the incorrect advice two weeks ago,” he said.

“This (the cessation) has had a massive impact on myself, the business and my employees. We’ll have no income coming in now until July.

“I’m employing people who have mortgages, have children, families to support, bills to pay. What happens to them?”

The business currently employs eight permanent employees and, during various times of the year, three to four casuals.

Last year MH Earthmoving paid out over $800,000 in wages.

“If the expansion is approved, we will be employing two more permanent staff, taking our total of permanent staff to ten,” Mr Hay said.

“That’s around 10-12 million dollars in wages over the next 10 years, money paid back into the community.

“I also have to pay Gundagai Bee Farms a royalty every month for the disposal of the waste, which has enabled the owner to expand his bee farming enterprise by an extra four employees.”

Mr Hay also disputes long-standing claims that his trucks are on the road outside of the hours permitted in his licence.

“The trucks are parked at the Gundagai Bee Farm’s shed. They do not and never have left the landfill in the early hours of the morning to go to Visy to be loaded,” he said. However if the expansion is approved, to appease the situation Mr Hay has indicated to Gundagai Council that he will immediately relocate his trucks to an alternate location.

He refutes claims of noise, vibration, dust and odour pollution, and says on the odd occasion when solar powered warning lights on the Burra Road intersection have malfunctioned, he has made it a priority to remedy the problem when alerted to it.

Mr Hay said he has been stringent in his quarterly reports to the EPA, which is a condition of his current licence, amid claims that no testing has been undertaken.

He said calls for the waste to be redirected to the Bald Hill facility are futile.

“Bald Hill can only take 15,000 tonnes per annum,” he said.

“I saw an opportunity for this to be situated in Gundagai, and I approached Visy.

“Once capped, it’s completely dry in 12-18 months, with no more fluids to be released. The pit will be domed for rain to run off of it.

“If the landfill cell was found to be leaking, it has been stated in the Environmental Impact Study (EIS), with testing conducted, that it would take at least 27 years to travel the approximate 500 metres to the nearest bore, and it would take 220 years to reach town, and would be diluted by other underground water streams.”

Mr Hay said the door to the landfill remains open to anyone for scrutiny.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, and the waste is not toxic. People’s ordinary household garbage is toxic. What goes into my landfill is not,” he said.

“As I’ve said before, I’ve got no problem with anyone who would like to take a tour of the landfill. Let me know, I’ll take them out there, I’ll show them the set-up, how it all works. Anyone, anytime because I’ve got absolutely nothing to hide.

“It just saddens me that in a small community like ours, you would have a small minority that would be willing to spread this hysteria with no foundation to shut down a perfectly legitimate business, putting people’s livelihoods at risk.”

 

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