Esperance Shire Council pursue more tests at Tip site

Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group's David Johnson performing the experiment. Photo: Supplied.
Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group's David Johnson performing the experiment. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s very, very disappointing – the costs are extraordinary and this has been our argument all along.”

That was the response from the Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group to the Esperance Shire Council’s decision to allocate a further $120,000 to testing at the proposed tip site.

At the council meeting on Tuesday, June 26, councillors revisited an independent review by consulting firm Pennington Scott of the Talis hydrological examination of the proposed site.

The council’s discussion was held behind closed doors, with councillors moving to conduct a pump test to evaluate the ground’s ability to store and transmit water.

Pennington Scott was highly critical of the Talis report, stating it understated how rapidly groundwater could migrate from the site.

The firm also said the baseline hydrogeology was not sufficiently understood.

The Tip Action Group had conducted their own experiment using non-toxic vegetable dye to dispute the amount of time it took for a contaminant to travel at the site.

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Merivale Tip Action Group president Mark Biven said he was disappointed more ratepayers’ money would be spent at the site.

“This takes it up to $650,000 of ratepayers’ money on a site, deemed by us, unsuitable for a tip,” he said.

“This should have been done in the Talis hydrological report and not the slug test method, which has been proven inadequate for measuring hydraulic conductivity, and to do it without a groundwater model is very daunting.

“To say that it needed to be done anyway is a cop out.

“If it were done properly the first time, they [The Shire of Esperance] would have the results and we wouldn't be here arguing about the hydrology.”

Shire president Victoria Brown said the results would determine whether to continue with the testing processes needed for approvals at the site.

“We received the information and we had discussed the information and council came to this decision to move forward,” she said.

“I’m very confident in the process to date and I think Don Scott of Pennington Scott made it quite clear that it is very difficult in Western Australia to find an ideal site.

“Mr Scott always made that quite clear, he said it may not be ideal but that there are many other waste facility sites in WA that are far less ideal than the one you’re looking at.

“One of the things about the process is that we have gathered so much data and information on this site that we’re learning more and more about it everyday and that will stand us in good stead for when we start doing our contingencies, our risk management.”

Although the Environmental Protection Authority is developing a scoping document for the proposed site, shire chief executive officer Matthew Scott said the test was a way of obtaining definitive answers.

I doubt any agency or the state government is going to leave the Esperance community in a situation where it does not have a place to place its waste.

Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott.

“By enlisting a third party we are aiming to provide peace of mind to our community that the results, whichever way they go, can be relied upon,” he said.

“It is essential that Council be provided with accurate information to make future decisions for this site.

“The test is something we have to do in the process so council decided it was best to do it now and get definitive answers rather than wait for the scoping document from the EPA to be finalised.

“Obviously we’re making sure that the EPA and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, who control the licence at Wylie Bay, are aware of the process.”

Despite the Wylie Bay Waste Facility’s expected closure in August 2019, Mr Scott said it could remain open longer, if necessary.

​“There are a lot of unknowns that need to be dealt with,” he said.

“It may mean some minor extensions to the licence at Wylie Bay, but I think as long as we demonstrate to the Department of Water and the EPA that we’re moving through the process they will provide assistance.

“I doubt any agency or the state government is going to the leave the Esperance community in a situation where it does not have a place to place its waste.”

The shire have confirmed that an independent hydrologist will undertake the pump testing, which will involve drilling two holes to complete the pump test.

It is understood the process from procurement to hydrology reports could take around two months.