Inquiry called for Coast water supply

Mangrove Mountain Tip

The Mountain Districts Association has called on NSW premier, Mr Mike Baird to hold a Commission of Inquiry into the Mangrove Mountain Golf Course Remodelling and Landfill Project.

Ms Claire Podlich, president of Mountain Districts Association, wrote to Mr Baird on January 29 to formally request the Commission of Inquiry.

The Association’s request for a Commission of Inquiry documents, in great detail, the history of the Mangrove Mountain landfill since it was first approved in the 1990s through to the current suspension of the operator’s licence.

The EPA is currently working its way through the process of setting new licensing conditions that will allow the operator to resume dumping waste at the landfill.

“We are concerned that both Gosford Council and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) have failed to exercise their respective statutory responsibilities regarding the Mangrove Mountain Memorial Golf Course Remodelling and Landfill Project,” Ms Podlich said.

The letter to Mr Baird cited “27 unanswered questions relating to EPA licensing breaches and 12 issues of concern with Gosford Council actions resulting in a tangled and complex web of mismanagement and deliberate avoidance of legal responsibility.

“The failure of both the EPA and Gosford Council has put the Central Coast water supply at great risk of serious contamination that could threaten the health of the Central Coast population,” Ms Podlich said in her letter to the premier.

The letter to Mr Baird alleged that there had been: “Unlawful excavation into the sandstone groundwater aquifers resulting in interference with groundwater flow and the high risk of contamination of ground water with potential contaminants such as arsenic and hexavalent chromium presenting a high future risk to the regional population.”

It argued that another reason a Commission of Inquiry was needed was that: “Despite community concerns and despite concerns of officers of Gosford Council over time, the complicit involvement of Gosford Council with the landfill operator in a mutual agreement to add a further 1.317 million cubic metres of waste to the site in 2014 and of Gosford Council with the EPA in negotiating the terms of a revised licence 11395 with the operator to regulate this waste volume.

“This will result in a total volume of waste 25 times the original approved volume. “This waste will require the installation of a six million litre capacity leachate holding pond,” the letter contends.

Ms Podlich’s letter was also critical of the agreement to approve the establishment of a new excavation pit for Virgin Excavated Natural Material (VENM) up to 955,448 cubic metres as part of the 2014 Land and Environment Court deal.

“The excavated VENM will expand…will then occupy a volume of 1.137 million cubic metres outside of the regulated area and an undisclosed volume within the regulated area,” the letter said.

“The landfill project is situated on top of a watercourse that is in the catchment of the Ourimbah Creek system. “This system is a major source of fresh water for the Central Coast.” Ms Podlich’s letter and extensive supporting documents from the Mountain Districts Association contend that surface run off from the landfill runs into the creek system in two directions, via Hallards Creek and via Stringy Bark Creek.

Wyong Council directly pumps out of Ourimbah Creek into Mardi Dam that supplies Wyong residents with potable water. Gosford Council pumps from Mardi Dam into Mangrove Creek Dam that supplies Gosford residents with potable water.

The Mountain Districts Association has documented what it considers to be “unacceptable outcomes” that have occurred at the landfill site between 1998 and 2016.

For instance, its submission states that 10 times the volume of waste permitted under the original Gosford Council development consent (DA 23042/1998) was allowed to be deposited in the landfill licensed area under Environment Protection Licence 11395 between 1998 and 2012.

The association’s call for a Commission of Inquiry is also based on what it considers to be a “lack of confirmed evidence that the original licensed landfill site was lined with an impervious membrane to prevent “leachate” (liquid leaking from the waste held within the landfill) from reaching groundwater aquifers.

It also contends that an original pond used to capture leachate was actually buried (submerged) under the licensed landfill mass.

Systems to manage leachate and storm water runoff that were designed for the original approved volume of waste are “manifestly incapable of dealing with present amounts of waste, particularly during periods of high rainfall,” the submission said.

The 13-page letter from Ms Podlich to the NSW premier was supported by two extensive appendices. The first was a 54-page photographic dossier of water and leachate management issues at the Mangrove Mountain landfill following a major rain event in January 2016.

The second appendix provided Mr Baird with 96 pages of information in support of the association’s call for a commission of inquiry.

The Mangrove Districts Association has also sent the premier draft terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry. It has also called for interim measures to be put in place while the veracity of its claims is assessed and responded to.

“We request that no further action be undertaken or approval given with regard to Environment Protection License 11395 by officers of the EPA,” it said.

In support of its requests, the Mountain Districts Association has written a summary of the actions of the EPA in relation to its administration of the licence issued to Verde Terra Pty Ltd that it argued would justify the extension of the current suspension of the company’s licence to dump at the Mangrove Mountain landfill.

It has also written an extensive list of what it alleges are failures by Gosford Council reaching back to the original development application received in 1998 and working through to the Land and Environment Court orders and settlement offer negotiated in 2014.

Letter and supporting documents, Jan 29, 2016 Claire Podlich, Mountain Districts Association Jackie Pearson, journalist