Monday, December 05, 2011

Stench response is on the nose

FAMILIES in Melbourne's west are worried about a putrid smell that has been wafting over the area for at least a year. More than 50 people have complained to the Environment Protection Authority Victoria about the rotting garbage smell, with one Derrimut resident, Deepa Coello, saying she feared it could have long-term health implications for her 18-month-old toddler Teanna. The EPA has received complaints from residents in Burnside, Caroline Springs, Deer Park and Derrimut, where Mrs Coello says the stench is usually at its worst after 7pm. ''It's getting embarrassing because it's usually at times when we're entertaining guests and they notice the smell,'' Mrs Coello, who is 14 weeks' pregnant, told The Sunday Age. ''I'm not exactly sure what the smell is so I'm just a bit concerned it could be some sort of industrial pollution. It's definitely not normal. It's such a bad smell I think it must be … dangerous.'' The Coellos live near two industrial sites: the Orica plastics, chemicals and explosives plant on Ballarat Road, Deer Park; and the Boral Western Landfill on Riding Boundary Road, Truganina. Orica, which was forced to close down its Kooragang Island ammonia plant near Newcastle, NSW, after a toxic gas leak in August, operates a number of businesses at its Deer Park site in the areas of adhesives, plastics and specialty chemicals, as well as a small explosives business manufacturing sophisticated initiating systems. The Boral plant is one of the largest landfills in Australia, accepting about 400,000-500,000 tonnes of waste each year. EPA spokeswoman Tanya O'Shea said its pollution hotline had received 55 calls about the foul smell in the past 12 months, with some callers blaming the Boral site but none mentioning Orica. EPA investigators had inspected the Boral site in June and September and the company had taken action to minimise off-site odours including covering odorous material, capping open leachate (waste water) wells and undertaking better managing, monitoring and treating of landfill gas, Ms O'Shea said. The EPA expected Boral to adhere to its licence conditions designed to prevent offensive odour from being discharged beyond its boundary, she said. Penalties of up to $293,000 can apply to licence breaches. Derrimut Labor MP Telmo Languiller said residents believed authorities were not doing enough to get rid of the smell. ''The challenge for the western suburbs - given industry growth and given that the area is increasingly being populated by new residents - is to find a way for residents, industry and business to coexist,'' he said. In a separate case, Australian Tallow Producers pleaded guilty in the Sunshine Magistrates Court last month to two charges relating to offensive odours in August and September last year, as well as a separate charge relating to tallow (an animal-derived fat) inadvertently being discharged into Kororoit Creek. ATP was fined $50,000 plus almost $14,000 in costs and agreed to spend about $1 million upgrading its facilities to meet a Pollution Abatement Notice.

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