Independent report calls for more safeguards for Mangrove Mountain landfill

The Community Environment Network (CEN) and Mountain Districts Association (MDA) have called for Central Coast Council to require a new Development Application (DA) and a new Environmental Impact Study (EIS) before consenting to any plans to reopen the landfill at Mangrove Mountain.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) released an independent report on the Mangrove Mountain landfill, with recommendations, including measures for the safe operation of the site.
The EPA, in consultation with the Mountain Districts Association (MDA), appointed SLR Consulting Australia Pty Ltd in September, 2016, to independently assess operations at the landfill site, which had not received any waste since May 2014.
The consultant’s report made the following observations about the historic and future operation of the landfill.
“In relation to the past operation of the Mangrove Mountain facility, this Independent Environmental Report (IER) has considered a broad range of information and concludes that, significant improvement is required in order to comply with necessary operational and regulatory procedures and policies.
“Robust engineering design should be complemented by best practice construction and responsible filling of cells.
“With higher design and operational standards, should come higher regulatory scrutiny by the NSW EPA and Council, to ensure operators comply with their Environmental Protection Licence … DA etc.
“The NSW EPA will need to review the operational documents provided … together with the design proposals, to assess the adequacy of the proposed landfill expansion whilst assessing the suitability of the site with regard to its position, size, location and potential environmental impacts.
“In light of the sensitive nature of the site being 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, the development needs additional regulatory scrutiny.
“Adequate groundwater monitoring bores are to be installed around the boundary of the site, with any repeatedly recorded dry holes redrilled to ensure groundwater is intercepted and can be monitored.
“Monitoring frequency should be quarterly as or as agreed within the Environment Protection Licence (EPL).
“Practical measures to divert stormwater are critical, especially in light of the steep proposed final landform for the golf course.
“Sediment/silt fences should be installed and maintained.
“Capping of the completed existing fill mound should be undertaken as a matter of priority to minimise further leachate generation through stormwater infiltration through the waste surface.
“Whilst it is noted that there is a 1998 Development Consent issued by the former Gosford City Council and there is a 1992 Environmental Impact Statement, prepared by TGT Consulting Services Pty Ltd, these should now be considered in the context of the 2014 Consent Orders issued by the Land and Environment Court.
“The 2014 Court Order required the operators to carry out future operations in compliance with specified amended landfill management plans.
“Revised versions of these plans have been considered in detail as the primary focus of this assessment, including appropriate future management controls for the historically landfilled waste.
“Presenting an opinion as to whether the 2014 Court Order modifies the 1998 Development Consent is outside the scope of this IER.
“The decision on how the current … documents (and any subsequent amendments undertaken based on the recommendations within this IER) relate to the original 1998 Development Consent (and EIS), in my opinion rests with the NSW EPA and the current Central Coast Council,” the consultant said.
EPA Executive Director, Waste and Resource Recovery, Mr Steve Beaman, said the agency had received SLR’s recommendations and would require Verde Terra, the site’s operator, to adopt them.
“The EPA has taken on board the recommendations for additional measures for the ongoing safe operation of the landfill site, and we are committed to ensuring Verde Terra adopts them,” Mr Beaman said.
“This report has been useful for the community and the EPA in assessing Verde Terra’s site management plans and its development proposal overall.
“SLR’s independent specialist consultant met the MDA a number of times during the review to ensure their concerns were addressed.
“The EPA appreciates the significant time and effort contributed by the MDA, and we now have a more robust proposal as a result.
“The EPA understands the ongoing community concerns over the storage of muddy stormwater at the site since it ceased operation, and the historically landfilled waste.
“We’ll continue to consult and work closely with the MDA to address these concerns.
“The good news is that this independent report found no evidence that the landfill is affecting ground or surface water quality.
“This confirms the EPA’s assessment of water quality tests in surrounding creeks that the EPA and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage have done previously, along with groundwater monitoring undertaken by Verde Terra’s consultants.”
Mr Beaman said the EPA had delivered a copy of SLR’s report to Central Coast Council on June 22 for its consideration.
The Mangrove Mountain landfill initially operated under a development consent issued in 1998 by the then Gosford City Council, according to the EPA.
In 2014, the Land and Environment Court of NSW made orders that provided for altered use of the site and some remedial actions.
Mr Beaman said that once Central Coast Council confirmed that the proposal could be implemented in accordance with the development consent, the EPA would review the operator’s environment protection licence.
“We must ensure Verde Terra’s licence is consistent with its development consent and Court Orders, and that this operator properly manages the disposal of waste,” he said.
“We’ll be working closely with Council to ensure that the site is managed in line with all environmental requirements.
“The EPA will regularly monitor and assess the ongoing operation of the site to ensure it complies with the environment protection licence and EPA’s Solid Waste Landfill Guideline (2016) requirements, and ensure that the local environment remains protected.”
The release of the report was welcomed by MDA.
“The consultant who undertook the review did a thorough job in going through the vast amount of technical information presented to him,” said MDA spokesperson, Dr Stephen Goodwin.
“The objective was to assess the suitability of the proposed management controls and monitoring framework for the Verde Terra landfill expansion, and of the management controls and compliance with regards to the previous landfill activity, in the context of protecting the environment and the community,” Mr Goodwin said.
“The EPA media release announcing the report’s release stated that the review was to ‘assess a proposal to recommence operations at the landfill site’,” he said.
“If truth be known, it was more about should the landfill be reopened, not when.
“MDA disagrees with the contents of the media release, and urges people to at least read the conclusions within the report.
“The Review Report made 61 recommendations, which have been passed on to the landfill operator for implementation.
“The media release stated that Central Coast Council had received a copy of the independent review on June 22, prior to it being made public.
“Interestingly, the EPA acknowledged that a change in use has taken place, although they do not define what that was.
“However, a change in use without following the rules contained in the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 is a breach of the Act.
“Council has had the document for two weeks and is now in a position to advise Verde Terra that due to the number, range and complexity of the amendments, in accordance with the legal principles contained in Section 96 of the EP&A Act, a new Development Application with a new Environmental Impact Study (EIS) must be prepared and submitted to Council.
“Until these documents have been prepared, submitted and assessed, no further work should be undertaken upon the land”, he said.
Mr Goodwin said he refuted Mr Beaman’s statements about the impact of the existing landfill on ground and surface water.
He said MDA contended that the EPA was relying on information provided by the landfill operator’s consultant, annual bore monitoring and testing done by the EPA “months after the significant environmental event had been reported to it,” he said.
Chairman of the Community Environment Network (CEN), Mr John Asquith, said Central Coast Council should take no steps in relation to re-opening the Mangrove Mountain landfill until after the September 9 election.
“There should be no action taken as council currently stands.
“CEN has always argued that there should be a new DA and an EIS, as the changes that have been made and will be made since the original consent, are in no way insignificant,” Mr Asquith said.
“The only time this development has been out to the public for submissions, was in 1998 when it was for 80,000 cubic metres of clean waste to build a golf course.
“There has been a ten-fold increase in the amount of waste on that site and the latest proposal is a huge increase that will have a huge impact on the community,” he said.
SLR Consulting’s report on the Mangrove Mountain landfill site is now available on the EPA’s website.

Media release, Jul 7
Emma Schiller, NSW Environment Protection Authority
Media release, Jul 10
Stephen Goodwin, Mountain Districts Association
Interview, Jul 12
John Asquith, Community Environment Network
Interview, Jul 12
Stephen Goodwin, Mountain Districts Association
Jackie Pearson, journalist