DER stands up for Bio-Organics’ testing

DER stands up for Bio-Organics’ testing

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The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale is calling for an investigation into allegations Bio-Organics is not complying with its closure notice and its groundwater monitoring is inadequate.

The Department of Environment Regulation issued the Oakford composting facility with a closure notice in June 2014 following claims the company had caused groundwater contamination.

It is now the subject of a groundwater monitoring process, which under legislation must be commissioned by the company.

In a report considered by the council at its ordinary meeting on May 9, shire staff stated it had been nearly two years since the closure notice was issued yet there were still large quantities of what appeared to be compost at the site.

The report said residents were continually reporting activity and truck movements on and off the site.

It also questioned the location of bores to test the groundwater.

“The shire has received virtually no information relating to the monitoring program and is concerned that the bore locations and sampling will not adequately assess the potential pollution issue,” it stated.

The report stated the shire’s consultant found the groundwater to be flowing in a southeasterly direction, rather than an easterly direction as claimed by Bio-Organics’ consultants.

According to the report, there was also information indicating contaminated water was used to irrigate a nearby vineyard, which may have extended the area of potentially contaminated groundwater.

Shire councillors voted unanimously to register these concerns with the DER and Environment Minister Albert Jacob and request a meeting with the minister.

Bio-Organics director Ben Avila would not comment on allegations the company had breached its closure notice but said he was in ‘weekly contact’ with the DER.

He refuted claims the vineyard needed testing as the groundwater was not down gradient from the composting facility.

Mr Avila dismissed concerns regarding the adequacy of the groundwater testing and said it was being undertaken as outlined by legislation.

“We’re paying for the consultant’s because somebody has to and the DER isn’t going to,” he said.

“Now if the shire is pissed off that I’m paying (the) bills, they’re more than welcome to pay (the) bills.

“Every step has been approved by the DER.”

A DER spokesman defended Bio-Organics’ testing of the site.

“Auditors are experienced contaminated sites professionals, who are accredited by DER under the Contaminated Sites Act 2003,” he said.

“Bio-Organics’ consultants work so far has been carried out in accordance with the approved sampling and analysis quality plan, required under the investigation notice, and appropriately supervised by the independent auditor.

“Both the consultant’s and auditor’s reports are required to be submitted to DER.”

He agreed with Mr Avila the vineyard did not require testing.

“In addition, the DER does not have evidence to indicate Bio-Organics irrigated the vineyard with liquid from the Bio-Organics retention dam or that the groundwater below the vineyard is contaminated from the Bio-Organics site,” he said.

The DER confirmed in March it was investigating breaches of Bio-Organics’ closure notice but this week a spokesman said he could not outline the potential breaches until the investigation was finalised.

He confirmed 67 complaints had been made between June 27, 2014 and May 11 by eight complainants compared with 446 complaints between January 1, 2014 and June 27, 2014.