The future of the Mangrove Mountain landfill will be discussed at a meeting between Central Coast Council, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the landfill operator and consultants on March 2.
Dr Stephen Goodwin, a spokesperson for Mountain Districts Association (MDA), which has strongly opposed further development and wants the site closed down and remediated, said he had strong misgivings about the direction the discussions might take.
Dr Goodwin said that a final report on the landfill by a private consultant commissioned under a joint agreement between MDA and EPA has not yet been finalised because of last minute interventions by the operator and associated parties, including Bingo Group, which previously had distanced itself from the landfill.
MDA has been excluded from the upcoming meeting, which Dr Goodwin said was “disturbing”.
Dr Goodwin said that because both the EPA and Gosford City Council (GCC) failed in their statutory responsibility to monitor and enforce the consent orders and licence conditions on the landfill, both organisations had an interest in avoiding future responsibility.
“The present Council continued to ignore the threat to the Central Coast water supply caused by the decision of the former Gosford Council to allow a waste landfill in a water catchment area,” he said.
“Despite MDA presenting irrefutable evidence challenging the legitimacy of 2014 Land and Environment Court orders, which would allow for an expansion of the landfill, the CEO of Central Coast Council, Rob Noble, has flatly refused to take any action.
“Council’s current position is that it will not seek to reopen the LEC proceedings,” Mr Noble said in an email to MDA.
Mr Noble’s email said: “If the Mountain Districts Association feels that further proceedings are warranted, then the Mountain Districts Association has the ability to commence its own proceedings.”
“He can act, but to date he has chosen not to,” said Dr Goodwin.
As background to the present impasse, the former Gosford Council took the landfill operator, Verde Terra Pty Ltd, and other parties to the Land and Environment Court (LEC) in 2012 for breaching the development consent.
The shock outcome of the case was a set of Orders that, once new licence conditions were met, would see a significant expansion of the landfill, the opposite outcome to what was intended.
“How did this happen?” Dr Goodwin asked.
No new waste has been accepted at the site since the LEC decision as new licence conditions remain a work in progress between the NSW EPA and the landfill operator.
MDA has been fighting for two years to have the landfill closed down and the site remediated.
“It would seem that they would rather put the water supply at risk,” he said.
“There is a strong legal impediment to proceeding, which Council should invoke,” he said.
“We have received reputable legal opinion the 2014 LEC orders cannot be implemented because the case was conducted on the basis that the site was environmentally safe.
“At the time the court order was made, senior staff of the former Gosford Council had information that the site was not safe, but this information was not provided to the court,” Dr Goodwin said.
“Not only did Council fail to monitor compliance, resulting in 10 times the approved volume of rubbish being deposited into the landfill, but they were the single biggest perpetrator of the explosion of rubbish on that site,” Dr Goodwin said.
“Information MDA obtained through GIPA showed 121,000 tonnes of rubbish from Council’s Kincumber and Woy Woy waste facilities was transferred to Mangrove Mountain Landfill between 2005 and 2012, involving in excess of 6,000 trucks,” he said.
The maximum amount of waste permitted to be dumped at Mangrove Mountain Landfill was 80,000 cubic metres.
“The alleged involvement of the former Gosford Council in both failing in their statutory duty under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act to ensure compliance at the landfill site, while at the same time being the major contributor to this breach, you would think would be enough for the current Council to act when a legal course of action to redress this matter is presented to them.
“The MDA had been told by Council’s Group Leader Environment and Planning, Mr Scott Cox, that the landfill at Mangrove Mountain ‘was one of the two most significant issues Central Coast Council inherited’.
“Is that a meaningless statement?” Dr Goodwin asked.
“Or does it just mean it is a big headache for Council because Council is liable for the mess.
Twelve months ago, EPA’s Executive Director of Waste and Resource Recovery, Mr Steve Beaman, acknowledged on ABC Central Coast radio that the EPA had lost the Mountain community’s trust over the landfill.
“Subsequent meetings between MDA and EPA have been productive, thanks to the hiring and input of an independent consultant to oversee past and future plans for the landfill.
“The consultant continually maintains his independence; he is simply there to report the facts and make recommendations to the EPA.”
Dr Goodwin said MDA was expecting the consultant’s final report would be placed in the public domain, but they also have concerns about the March 2 meeting.
“Our concern is that the parties will use the occasion to arrive at an outcome that suites them to move forward with the court orders and reopen the landfill.
“If the facts are treated on their merit, we have every confidence the landfill is on borrowed time.
“Only then will the EPA have regained the trust of the community.
“Mr Beaman has said the EPA would not approve any environmental measures at the Landfill that did not safeguard the Central Coast Water Supply.
“They can convince us all they like about the new measures, but the existing 800,000 cubic metre waste pile sits there unprotected.
“All they can do is put in some mitigating measures, which on past performance, will be watered down, but that will not prevent that landfill continuing to be a threat to the water supply.
“We want an end to it, we don’t want any new waste brought in.
“Someone has to go back to the LEC and, with all the circumstances revealed to the court, come back with an arrangement about who pays to clean up the site.”
Dr Goodwin said the research MDA had conducted over the past 12 months revealed the part of the landfill thought to be lined (cell 1B) was, in fact, open at each end.
“So in fact 100 per cent of the existing waste mound is environmentally unsafe,” he said.
“The EPA’s own Guidelines for Solid Waste Landfills state that ‘in or within 40 metres of a permanent or intermittent water body, or in an area overlying an aquifer, that contains drinking water quality groundwater that is vulnerable to pollution’ is an inappropriate site for a waste landfill.
“This site ticks all the boxes and yet in 2017 we are still arguing with both the EPA and Council about getting some action.
“We are very disappointed in the present administration.”
Feb 20, 2017
Dr Stephen Goodwin and Marilyn Steiner, Mountain Districts Association
Feb 6, 2017
Rob Noble, Central Coast Council
Jackie Pearson, journalist