Don't let them get away with it

Roger Simms


A picture of Cell 1 at the Opal Vale landfill operation, taken in March this year.  

The cell has filled with water and breached the side wall.



A PERTH landfill operator should not be allowed an escape route over a breach of conditions in setting up its rubbish dump operation in Toodyay.

This argument is at the heart of submissions lodged last week after Opal Vale Pty Ltd applied to the WA Department of Environmental Regulation to lower conditions it is required to meet before it can start dumping rubbish.

The conditions cover groundwater monitoring and required a landfill pit at the Hoddys Well site to be at least two metres above underlying water. 

Opal Vale said there was typically a one-metre seasonal fluctuation in local groundwater levels. The bottom of the pit was 1.9 metres above the highest level but “only for a short duration of the year”.

Hoddys Well resident Bill Manning said in his submission that Opal Vale did not seek to have conditions amended because they were no longer necessary, but because it deliberately ignored them when constructing Cell 1 (landfill pit) and was unable to proceed with its landfill operations without the amendments.

Mr Manning said he understood that in recent months there had been a significantvolume of water in the cell which Opal Vale had been pumping into adjacent watercourses. It was possible this was underground water which had seeped into the cell.

“If this is the case, it highlights the unsuitability of the site for a landfill operation and why it is important that conditions imposed to avoid contamination of groundwater are enforced, not weakened,” Mr Manning said.

In his submission, Robert Pearce, of Salt Valley Road, said the community needed protection from companies motivated by profit and with little regard for the environment.

He said the company’s argument about water levels under the pit was fallacious.

“By their admission, Opal Vale acknowledges groundwater had not been monitored prior to the construction of Cell 1,” he said.

“I also object to the argument that the distance to the nearest groundwater receptor is 912 metres and it would take 96 years for contaminants to reach this area.

“This is misleading and has no scientific grounds. I am a neighbour and my stock depend on creek and underground water.

My family’s livelihood has the potential to be affected if contaminants leach into the groundwater.

“Opal Vale failed to monitor groundwater prior to the construction of Cell 1. One has little faith in Opal Vale to follow future safe environmental practices given this breach.”

Environmental scientist Rosemary Madacsi, in a submission on behalf of the Toodyay community, said that the costs to a proponent who knowingly repeatedly ignored conditions placed by the statutory and regulatory bodies should not be considered.

Granting any licence to operate the site to this proponent was questionable given the history, lack of solid conclusive data and the major risk the operation presented to the community and the environment. 

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