The Victorian Ombudsman has sought to confirm that three waste management facilities have complied with environmental management plans (EMP) to receive spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project.
The Ombudsman will investigate the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) approval of the shortlisted sites which belong to the Hi-Quality Group, Western Soil Treatment, and Cleanaway Operations.
The EPA initially approved the sites in 2020, only for community concern to rise over a mistake in its approval documentation.
The approval was revoked, before re-approval for the same three sites was submitted in March 2021, which the EPA confirms would now stand up in court if questioned.
“EPA is confident the administrative error in the earlier EMPs has been addressed,” the EPA stated.
In June this year, the builders of the West Gate Tunnel Project, John Holland CPB Joint Venture, selected Hi-Quality’s quarry site in Bulla to receive the spoil, but the Ombudsman has a responsibility to double-check the EPA’s decision-making process.
“The community deserves to know if correct processes were followed when it came to deciding where tonnes of spoil could be disposed of, especially given the proximity to homes,” Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said.
“I am aware of the strength of some community feeling in this matter and it is important I make clear that this investigation cannot stop the construction of the West Gate Tunnel.”
In its approval letter to Hi-Quality, the EPA outlined why the site had been given the green light.
“The EMP, together with the EP MTBMS (Environmental Protection Management of Tunnel Boring Machine Spoil) Regulations, adequately protects human health and the environment from the harmful effects of pollution and waste,” the EPA stated.
The West Gate project is expected to produce three million tonnes of waste spoils over an 18-month period, peaking at 11,000 tonnes per day.
On average, Victoria accepts between four to five million tonnes of waste per year, and therefore, the additional waste sites have had to be sought out.