Uncertainty about when the Watkins Rd Waste Transfer Station will be open for business again has been growing in the community.
Questions have circulated online about why it has taken so long to clean up the asbestos found on site earlier this year.
President Rob Coales explained the problem was “complex” and not an “easy one to resolve”.
“It’s not a case of just picking up the fragments of asbestos, dusting ourselves off, and reopening the transfer station,” he said.
“It involves trained professionals, air monitoring, lots of detailed reports to ensure the shire is undertaking its due diligence, keeping the safety of our residents and staff as a priority – all of which take time.
“There is no conspiracy theory. We’re not keeping it closed to save money – in fact the opposite is true. We are literally working hard each day to resolve this as quick as is humanly possible, with minimal impact to our residents.”
In the report presented to council this week, Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale officers have detailed the extent of the contamination and a dire prediction for the facility’s reopening – if it indeed ever does.
Talis Consultants were contracted earlier this year for initial testing of the site to highlight the risk posed by the contamination.
According to Talis, all 31 fragment samples taken for testing in October were confirmed positive for containing asbestos.
During an emu-bob exercise, 95 fragments of bonded fibro cement sheeting containing asbestos (totalling over 1kg) were collected from the surface, across all areas of the tip.
Three out of 14 soil samples taken from mechanically-drilled pits were also found to contain asbestos.
These results, though preliminary, have given Talis enough confidence to declare the site “a potential risk to the environment and human health”.
It will be a further 10 months before the site could begin to be remediated.
Officers have explained that before remediation works begin, “there are several steps required to be completed which will include air monitoring, a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) for groundwater monitoring and soil testing, a Detailed Site Investigation (DSI) and development of a concept plan for site remediation”.
And it could be years before the site is able to be used again.
“Due to the amount of work required to remediate the Watkins Transfer Station (WTS), in particular capping the green waste area, it is not expected that the Shire would be in a position to process green waste at the WTS at least for another two years or possibly longer,” officers have said.
And the expense could be eye-watering. It’s been estimated that it could cost up to $150,000 before any remediation works actually begin.
Officers have said details about the costs and scope of the clean-up will be released in May next year “at which time council can consider the future use of the site”.
Shire officers will also be contracting an independent consultant to determine whether it should recall the free mulch it has been providing from the Watkins Rd facility.
At last night’s council meeting, councillors agreed on stopgap solutions for next year. These include two green waste verge collections in 2024, and pre-booked bulk verge collection service for households.
“Last [monday] night council voted on what we thought was the fairest solution to cater for the diverse range of needs in our shire,” president Coales said.
“We know some people don’t have trailers. We know that most people prefer to have items collected from the verge instead of piling it in a trailer. We’ve listened to that feedback and we’ve come up with a solution for 2024 that we hope most people are happy with.”
It should be noted, however, that the City of Armadale was unwilling to continue offering its tip for SJ residents after January 31 next year “due to the increased volumes of customer service calls, traffic and waste volume received at their site”.
More information, including dates for the commencement of the pre-booked bulk verge and scheduled green waste verge services will be released as soon as contracts can be awarded.
Current tip passes for the City of Armadale Landfill and Recycling Facility expire on 31 January 2024 and are for bulk waste only. There have been anecdotal reports of SJ residents with trailer loads of green waste being turned away.