Esperance Tip site review recommends additional investigations

An Independent Review of the Environmental Referral prepared by Talis consultants has labelled their understanding of the proposed Merivale tip site’s hydrogeology “insufficient”.

Talis was commissioned by the Shire of Esperance to undertake the referral for the EPA early in 2017.

The Review emphasised the importance of the design of the proposed three layer liner containment system in locations where hydrogeological conditions were not ideal for a waste facility and leachate could occur.

Independent Reviewer PenningtonScott was highly critical of the referral, stating it had failed to deliver confidence that appropriate clay resources for the containment liner had been sourced and that it greatly understated how rapidly groundwater could migrate from the site if the facility’s liner failed.

The Review also stated the baseline hydrogeology was not sufficiently understood to develop an early detection groundwater monitoring plan and facilitate an effective recovery strategy in the event of a leakage.

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Acknowledging the challenges of positioning a waste facility along much of the state’s coast, PenningtonScott said there were few sites within the town’s economic radius that would be well suited.

Despite identifying a number of concerns, the Shire said PenningtonScott’s managing director Don Scott said there was no “fatal flaw” with the proposed Merivale Tip Site from a hydrogeological perspective.

The hydrogeologist met with Council and the Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group on Tuesday, May 1, to discuss the Draft Independent Technical Review of the Esperance Waste Management Facility.

The Shire are still working on the Environmental Scoping Document and assessing costs to provide additional assessments which may required by the EPA.

Esperance Shire president Victoria Brown said the Shire were now addressing the concerns held by Mr Don Scott.

“Council has not formally considered the Technical Review received from Pennington Scott at this stage and is waiting for additional clarification on several issues to be included in his final report,” she said.

“Council is also seeking a response from Talis with respect to some of the conclusions outlined in the Technical Review.

“Council initiated this third party review to ensure all the data being relied upon when making decisions regarding this site are factual and accurate.”

Ms Brown said the Esperance environment was a priority to Council and any potential impact would need to be fully investigated to ensure everyone had the confidence that the site was or was not the right place for the community to have a Waste Facility.

Talis director Ronan Cullen said the company were currently in the process of reviewing the Pennington Scott report and its findings.

“We are of the understanding that the Shire may be seeking some clarifications on the report from Pennington Scott,” he said.

“Talis will be issuing a response to the report in due course.”

The Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group have described the report’s findings as vindication for the group, who have been pushing for the Shire to abandon the site.

In a statement released on Wednesday, May 3, the Group said they had held the position that many were failing to understand the geology and hydrology of the Lot 12 Kirwin Road site.

The review was one of four requirements in a motion endorsed by Council following the Annual Electors Meeting in January to examine the suitability of the Kirwan Road site for a Waste Management Facility.

The motion, presented by Action Group president Mark Biven, proposed Council abandon the current Tip site and immediately focus on an appropriate site, as per Environmental Protection Authority guidelines.

At the Special Meeting on February 19, Council moved to acknowledge the concerns of the community with regards to the proposed facility and deferred any further decisions until they had the opportunity to consider the level of assessment determined by the EPA.

It was also moved that a third party would conduct an independent review of the hydrological investigations, including the Talis’ Phase 2 report.

The motion was carried 8-1, with councillor Shelley Payne voting against.

Proof: The Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group conducted their own experiment in February to dispute claims about the amount of time it would take a leak at the site to travel. Photo: Supplied.

Proof: The Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group conducted their own experiment in February to dispute claims about the amount of time it would take a leak at the site to travel. Photo: Supplied.

The Group later revealed they had conducted their own experiment at the site to dispute Talis’ estimate regarding the amount of time it would take for a contaminant to travel from the site.

The group released 20 litres of red, non toxic vegetable dye into a sinkhole and utilised water from recent rainfall to flush the product.

After 24 hours and 18 millimetres worth of rainfall, the dye was discovered in a spring 1.84 kilometres from the original test site.

Pennington Scott Pty Ltd were contacted but did not wish to comment on the matter.

For more information on the Shire’s New Landfill Site Project or documentation from the aforementioned reports, visit www.esperance.wa.gov.au/current-project-information#accordion-0-0