Whiff of confusion about odour reports

Whiff of confusion about odour reports

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The Department of Environment Regulation (DER) denied it received an odour survey report from the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale regarding Oakford composting facility Bio Organics.

The DER was responding to claims by Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale health and building manager Tony Turner at the latest parliamentary hearing into the closure of Bio Organics last year.

During the hearing on September 23 Mr Turner said the shire had produced an odour report in 2013 following complaints from residents but there had been no response from the DER.

He said complaints about odour and an increase in the acceptance of liquid waste began after the company lodged an application to accept poultry waste in 2012.

Mr Turner believed odour had already been an issue for residents but with the inclusion of poultry manure they felt it would be too much to handle, which resulted in an increase to complaints to both the shire and the DER in 2013.

He said following the rise in complaints shire officers implemented an investigation involving residents keeping odour diaries and field odour assessments.

“Some of those field odour assessments were done with the DER, which was useful in corroborating our approach,” he said.

“At the end of those assessments, we found that there was definitely an odour issue and produced an odour report and provided that report to the DER.

“However, we never got any response from the DER on that odour report or the odour issue when we inquired.”

He told the hearing a lack of communication from the DER to the shire and residents had been an ongoing problem in regards to Bio Organics.

This week a DER spokeswoman denied there had been a lack of communication and said that DER records showed regular correspondence by letter, telephone and email between the DER, shire and residents from July 2013 onwards.

“The department’s records for 2013 have been searched and it can find no record that it received an odour survey report for Oakford from the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale,” she said.

She said the then Department of Environment and Conservation had commenced its own odour field survey process in Oakford in February and March 2013, which were conducted by two trained department officers and two non-trained field experienced officers from the shire.

She said this lead to an amended licence being issued to the company and that with the reduction of the delivery of liquid waste to the site, the principle cause of odour was, in the main, rectified.

She said the main cause of the odour ceased from June 2014.

During the hearing Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale acting planning director Dion Van de Linde said Bio Organics’ development approval had expired in 2012 and the fact the shire had allowed it to continue operating without a licence had been an oversight.

Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale president Richard Gorbunow said since then the shire had put a system in place that brought up expiry dates, which would prevent future oversights.

Bio Organics director Ben Avila denied any wrong doing and disagreed with the shire’s assessment that the planning approval had expired because he had a current licence with the DER.

Truck concerns allayed

The DER and Bio Organics director Ben Avila have allayed concerns about ongoing truck movements from the Oakford site, saying it was part of the conditions of the closure notice.

At the most recent parliamentary hearing it emerged residents were still seeing trucks moving in and out of the facility.

A DER spokeswoman said as part of the closure notice all delivery of compost feedstock material to the site had ceased, as had any new composting activity.

“The current truck movements involve receiving clean sand to be mixed with the remaining product onsite which is then trucked offsite, in accordance with the closure notice requirements,” she said.

Mr Avila confirmed he was complying with the requirements and had ceased all new composting activity.

Background

Bio Organics was issued a closure notice last year following odour complaints and allegations of groundwater contamination and a parliamentary inquiry into the closure was launched earlier this year.

The DER and Oakford residents gave evidence at the first two hearings, while the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale gave evidence at the third hearing late last month.