epa-called-in-to-probe-koony-tipKoonwarra residents of are fed-up with continual odour and litter issues from the nearby landfill and want the South Gippsland Shire Council to take action. C173214

SHOPPING bags, plastics, foam and six pack beer rings are just some of the litter that has blown from the Koonwarra tip onto the property owned by Stuart and Veronica Greaves.
For almost a decade the couple say they have been dealing with an ongoing litter and odour problem on their property and now, with the support of their neighbours and the local community, they are fighting back.
The South Gippsland Shire Council says they are operating within their licence guidelines, and work hard to minimise litter escaping from the site and will act on any recommendations from the EPA.
The Greaveses own a 150-acre property on Sewells Road and their boundary adjoins the Koonwarra Transfer Station.
They say despite promises from the South Gippsland Shire Council that they would not be affected by litter and odour issues when the landfill site was first earmarked back in 2002, their property is continually scattered with rubbish.
“Back in 2002, the council formed a committee to get the local community engaged about a proposed landfill. I was on the committee and attended the meetings,” Mr Greaves said.
“Councillors at the time coordinated the meetings and they promised the local community that the landfill would be run according to best practise guidelines.
“They said odour and litter would not be an issue. This is one of the things that make us irate, because unlike Ruby residents who flatly said ‘No, it’s not happening here’, this local community was reasonable and practical and realised that the shire needed a landfill.”
Mr Greaves said residents accepted that the project was going to go ahead but were comforted by assurances that it was going to be a “well-managed project and there would not be any issues.”
But soon after the landfill became operational, litter started to find its way onto the Greaves’ property.
“For the first three years we would just pick the litter up ourselves. We dealt with it, sucked it up and took it on the chin,” Mr Greaves said.
Then in 2008 a strong odour was being emitted from the landfill and the Greaves made a complaint.
“We were told that the contractors at the time (West Gippsland Waste Management) had cut through existing waste, which had created a huge stench,” he said.
“Basically council would pass the blame onto the contractor and say ‘it’s not our fault, we don’t run it, we just oversee it’.”
Two years ago council took over the running of the site and according to Mr Greaves things have failed to improve.
“There is continual littler on our property and odour issues. Every time there is a still night or morning, the smell is terrible.
“According to the EPA there can be an odour at the boundary of the property, but this is at our front door.”
The South Gippsland Shire Council send work crews into the property every fortnight or more often if there have been strong winds to collect and remove the litter.
But the Greaveses feel this is a reactive approach and want to see the litter contained at the site.
“They say ‘why do you have a problem if we are happy to come in and pick it up?’” Mr Greaves said.
“But that would be like me throwing litter out of the car window, then stating I will come back and pick it up in a fortnight. That wouldn’t stand up in court so why should we have to put up with it?”
Also of concern to the Greaveses, who run ‘Koony Natural Lamb’, are crews walking through their property, affecting their lambing ewes.
“The ewes spook easily and it heightens the risk of the ewe abandoning the lamb,” he said.
Black Spur Creek, which is part of the Meeniyan water supply, runs through the couple’s property and is continually littered with rubbish, and they are concerned with the associated health risks this may pose.
“We have been patient and courteous throughout this. We have offered solutions and are reasonable and practical people,” Mr Greaves said.
“There are plastic bags, paper and foam, and things that I cannot mention in front of the kids coming on to the property. And if it’s not the litter we are dealing with then it’s the smell.”
The couple who have revegetated large areas of their property, say they feel their efforts to maintain and sustain their land are also being hampered by the council’s lack of action in regards to the litter.
“We have planted nearly 10,000 trees here with the help of our local Landcare group. We are trying to do the right thing and revegetate the land for our children or for whoever takes on the property and it feels like we are being undermined,” he said.
While Mr Greaves acknowledges that a heightened fence at the site installed by the council in December last year has helped reduce the flow of litter onto his property he says it is still not enough.
“We give credit where credit is due. It has helped but rubbish is still getting through,” he said.
“The Mayor Jim Fawcett and Director for Community Services Jan Martin have openly stated that they don’t think they will be able to manage the landfill to the level of satisfaction that we require.
“So they are pretty much saying they don’t care about the community or our livelihood. In the year of 2014 to have litter blowing around like this it is really unacceptable.”
A representative from the EPA will visit the property this week to discuss the couple’s issues and take a walk throughout the property.
“The EPA are coming out and I am going to show them around and show them the pictures of the litter we have taken and just bring them up to speed on what’s occurred since their visit last year,” Mr Greaves said.
South Gippsland Shire Council’s Sustainability manager Geoff McKinnon says council takes compliance in regards to their operating licence very seriously and is doing all it can to minimise litter leaving the site.
“We do a lot of work to prevent litter escaping the site by way of temporary screens and permanent fences,” Mr McKinnon said.
“We have a program in place where every couple of weeks, or more often if there has been an extreme wind event, we contact neighbouring properties and let them know that we will come in, do a walk around and inspect the property and remove any rubbish.”
Mr McKinnon said crews are currently being prevented from accessing the Greaves property to clean-up the area after permission was denied by Mr Greaves who told council instead he would be contacting the local media and the EPA.
“I assume there may be litter in the creek at the moment because we haven’t been able to get in to clean it up,” he said.
“I don’t think that there are any health issues with plastic bags getting in the creek. I wouldn’t think that would be of any health concern, but our guys do try and prevent it and if it does occur they usually go in and clean it up.”
Mr McKinnon said council is operating in accordance with the guidelines of their licence and says as soon as the Greaves allow them access back on to the property, they will go in and clean up and rubbish.
Mr McKinnon said council were aware of the meeting between the Greaves and the EPA this week and said they would wait for the outcome from that.
“We work closely with the EPA in managing the site. Every time there is a strong wind event of 30/40/50 knots we contact them to say we are trying to manage it and that we may have had some litter escape the site,” he said.
“We inform them that we will be contacting our neighbours to go in and clean and litter up.
“We will wait for the findings of the EPA investigation and then address anything that comes from that.”