A landfill

A review of EPA Victoria’s new draft guidelines

Victorian Waste Management Association Executive Officer Andrew Tytherleigh reviews EPA Victoria’s recent draft guidelines on landfills and prescribed industrial wastes.

When I was a kid, a visit to the tip with the old man was always a highlight. Standing at the edge of the old quarry on Mt Mugga Mugga, we could hurl the empties across the void and,
if lucky, they’d smash against the opposite wall.

Thirty years later, you could still scavenge around the tip face in
the old sand pits of the south east, fossicking among the car bodies and Harris trains dumped there.

It was nearly my undoing, as once, to avoid the advancing dozer, I jumped off the tip face and straight into quicksand up to my armpits.

I managed to grab something and pull myself out of the black ooze still clutching the part that I had scavenged from the Kombi. When I got back to the car, a bloke nearby, throwing out bags of rags, took one look at me and said, “Here mate, looks like you could use some of these”, as he held out a bag at arm’s length.

Not that I am suggesting that the community needs to get that “up close and personal” with landfills, but maybe it’s because people don’t interact with “tips” like they used to do is why they are viewed with such suspicion these days.

In the intervening years, since the EPA has been licensing them and occupational health and safety has become a prime consideration, a visit to the landfill is as anodyne as a trip to the fuel bowser. There’s little to no understanding of how they operate any more.

And it’s true that they don’t operate like they used to.

The latest EPA update on landfill licensing guidelines, which reflect the changed conditions as a result of the licence reform process, shows just how far the regulation of landfills has come.

EPA Victoria (EPA VIC) published draft updated guidelines on two areas of note for waste management operators and those in resource recovery recently.

On 4 April, it launched ‘Publication 1619’, a draft update to the existing ‘1323.2 Landfill Licensing’ guideline. This document provides guidance on how to understand the conditions brought in by the 2015/2016 EPA VIC review of landfill licences, as well as explaining how to now seek its approval for construction of new landfill cells and leachate ponds at existing landfills.

On 31 March, EPA VIC also published its ‘Proposed amendments to beneficial reuse provisions in the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009’. The regulations aim to ensure an efficient, robust and safe process
for the management of prescribed industrial waste (PIW) streams while simplifying regulatory controls when a PIW can be used as a resource.

Obligations for landfill operators

The EPA requires landfill owners to identify their risks and put in place suitable environmental management procedures. The Guideline (Publication 1619) comprises three sections. Section 1 outlines the steps that need to be taken by operators 
in the development of monitoring program and how that program is independently audited. It is a complex and detailed process.

Section 2 provides guidance for obtaining EPA VIC approval for the design of new cells and the specifications, including cap design. Section 3 deals with the amendment process for changes to the cell, cap and leachate pond construction, as well as the audit.

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