EPA approves West Gate Tunnel soil landfill sites

EPA Victoria has approved two landfill sites to host the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel Project’s PFAS-contaminated soil.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has approved Environment Management Plans (EMP) for Maddingley Brown Coal in Bacchus Marsh and Hi Quality in Bulla as part of their applications to receive tunnel boring machine spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was found in soil during the construction of the West Gate Tunnel Project in Melbourne.

On Tuesday September 1, EPA said it had assessed the plans for “potential environmental impacts, such as runoff, odour, and potential land, surface water and ground water risks”.

“The approval of an EMP does not mark the final decision on where the spoil will be sent,” EPA said.

EPA received EMPs from three businesses. At this stage, the state’s environmental regulator has approved EMPs from two of these businesses including Hi-Quality and Maddingley Brown Coal.

The EMPs were part of their applications to receive TBM spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project.

Under Government regulations the owner of a site bidding to receive TBM spoil must develop an EMP and comply with specific conditions including constructing an appropriate containment system and managing spoil appropriately so risks are controlled.

“EPA is not responsible for the ultimate decision on where TBM spoil from the project will be taken. EPA will strictly monitor compliance with any approved EMP and hold any site receiving spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project to account,” EPA said.

“We are satisfied that these EMPs, together with the Regulations, adequately protect human health and the environment from pollution and waste.”

“These EMPs will ensure the health of the local community and the environment is protected,” said EPA Executive Director of Regulatory Standards, Assessments and Permissioning Tim Eaton.

“EPA will closely monitor these sites to make sure that they are complying with their EMP and best practice safety measures to protect the local community and environment.”

A State Government spokesperson said the EPA’s approval was strict and one part of the landfill site decision process.

“The EPA’s approval sets strict requirements, to protect the environment and the health of the community, that these sites would have to meet if they are selected to take tunnel soil from the project,” the statement said.

“While this is a positive step towards getting tunnelling underway it is just one step in a rigorous process.

“Planning approvals are still required before preparatory works can commence at either site and it’s a matter for Transurban and its builder to determine which site it will use.”

EMPs from three businesses to handle the soil are being contested by community groups and local councils who oppose storage in their regions.

New regulations under section 71 of the Environment Protection Act 1970 allow for the management and disposal of tunnel boring machine (TBM) spoil to protect human health and the environment.

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