Beleaguered Oakford composting facility Bio Organics has begun operating a transport depot, allowing it to temporarily stockpile ‘landscaping goods,’ onsite after receiving planning approval from the State Administrative Tribunal.
The company has been plagued by scandal since 2013 following allegations it was accepting large amounts of liquid waste causing groundwater contamination, which led to its forced closure in June 2014.
In July last year, Bio Organics applied to the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to develop the depot but it was rejected amid concerns it could impact the integrity of ongoing groundwater investigations as well as concerns about odour, noise, dust and traffic.
That decision was overturned at a recent SAT hearing.
Bio Organics director Ben Avila described it as a win for the company after what he said was a frustrating process.
“As far as we’re concerned, planning approval has been received and we’re operating,” he said.
Mr Avila denied there were ongoing community concerns regarding the depot.
He also played down concerns the company was not complying with its closure notice despite failing to carry out groundwater testing on time.
As part of its closure notice the company must carry out and submit four groundwater monitoring events to the Department of Environment Regulation over 12 months.
The third event was due at the end of June but this was not done and the DER was forced to write to the company on July 22 to ensure it was completed.
Mr Avila refused to detail why the testing was late but said it was currently being carried out.
“I’m looking out my office window now and there’s guys taking water samples, he said.
“There are reasons why we’re doing it today and not before – there are various reasons, which the DER have been informed about.”
Serpentine Jarrahdale Ratepayers Association president Alan Clarkson was disappointed the depot had been approved, given the company was the subject of ongoing investigations.
“It’s of great concern that the company is not following the orders of the DER for groundwater monitoring but of greater concern is that while this is going on decisions are being made in SAT when this process has not been followed properly,” he said.
“The actual groundwater contamination has still not been defined.”
Mr Clarkson was also concerned the delay in groundwater monitoring would push investigations back, causing delays to a site investigation report due in November.
A DER spokesman confirmed there had been delays in completing the second and third monitoring events but said this had not changed the November deadline.
The DER’s handling of the Bio Organics closure is the subject of an ongoing parliamentary inquiry.
Bio Organics is also currently being prosecuted by the DER over alleged non-compliance of its closure notice and the shire has a current Planning and Development Act prosecution against the company.