The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has refused a new licence variation application from operators of the Mangrove Mountain landfill, Verde Terra Pty Ltd, due to concerns it would have an adverse impact on the environment if approved.
Mountain Districts Association (MDA) spokesperson, Dr Stephen Goodwin, said: “The EPA’s refusal is great news and a step in the right direction.
“Hopefully this is the first, with more knockbacks to come.
“A variation of the licence could have allowed the landfill to re-open,” he said.
Goodwin said the EPA’s statement that it was concerned the application would have an adverse impact on the environment, if approved, was a “significant admission”.
“It is the first time that the EPA has publicly acknowledged the risk of the leachate produced by the existing waste mound on the groundwater and Central Coast drinking water supply,” he said.
“For years, MDA has been pressing this very point to both the EPA and Council, and finally, it has been officially acknowledged.
“Now there is no impediment to the NSW Government proceeding with an independent inquiry.
“Previous requests to the Premier for a Special Commission of Inquiry have been met with rejection, because, MDA was told, water testing results showed no adverse impact on the water supply.
“But, as we all know, this has absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing risk of contamination, which may take years to emerge in the water supply and groundwater,” he said.
In a written statement, the EPA also said it had refused the latest application from Verde Terra “because we do not believe that the proposed activities have planning approval.”
The NSW EPA has received notification that Verde Terra is appealing this refusal in the Land and Environment Court (LEC).
“This recent licence variation application was lodged by Verde Terra with the NSW EPA on August 2 and refused on August 9,” the statement said.
This is the second action Verde Terra has taken in the LEC this year.
In May, the operator of the Mangrove Mountain Landfill commenced proceedings against the EPA for deemed refusal of a licence variation application lodged in 2015.
Both matters, including the August 9 application refusal, will be back in court on August 23.
“The community has had little to cheer about in recent years, but this is a significant development,’ Stephen Goodwin said.
“MDA keeps fielding interest from residents of other parts of the Coast who are worried about the future of their water supply and when the landfill will be closed.
“What is puzzling is why Verde Terra chose to get its licence renewed that, if successful, could have allowed it to re-open for business, when it knew all along that there was still a question mark over the development consent that must be cleared up before the EPA could proceed”, Dr Goodwin said.
“They knew this because Central Coast Council had written to them over a year ago advising that further modifications to the development consent would be necessary before they would allow the landfill to recommence operation.
“Mangrove Mountain Landfill has been a long haul and MDA is in no doubt that there is still more to play out before it is finally resolved.
“Verde Terra can be assured though that the community will not give up until it is rid of this odious development that threatens the groundwater and Central Coast drinking water supply.
“The leachate produced by the mountain of waste at Mangrove Mountain will remain a risk until something is done about it.
“Mountain Districts Association is still chasing a Special Commission of Inquiry to expose the flaws in the regulatory process that resulted in both the former Gosford City Council and the EPA failing in their statutory responsibilities that resulted in this environmental, public health and legal quagmire.
“Central Coast Council has written to the NSW Government in support of the NSW Parliamentary recommendation for an independent inquiry into the operation, regulation and approvals of the Mangrove Mountain Landfill site.
“Council is to be applauded for taking this stance in the knowledge that it may well result in some criticism of the processes of the former Gosford City Council.
“However, the community will feel good that its Council took this action.
“In a recent teleconference, MDA pressed the acting Executive Director of the EPA’s Waste and Resource Recovery Branch, Ms Carmen Dwyer, to join Council and recommend to her own Minister to support a Special Commission of Inquiry.
“MDA is also encouraged that Ms Dwyer has indicated that she is willing to resume meetings with MDA on the future of the landfill, which her predecessor, Stephen Beaman, had suspended after the August, 2017, Four Corners program had been critical of the EPA’s handling of the waste industry,” Goodwin said.
Mayor Jane Smith said she believed Council’s Mangrove Mountain and Spencer Advisory Committee had also had a role to play in pressuring the EPA to acknowledge the environmental risks associated with the landfill.
“Council is still to make a decision about whether they join with the EPA in any proceedings,” Smith said.
“I am aware the EPA has refused that licence application and in listening to the local community, I would say it is a good outcome,” she said.
Coast Community News has asked Central Coast Council to clarify what options are available to it, as consent authority, to require a new development application before permitting the landfill to reopen.
Media statement, Aug 10
NSW EPA Public Affairs
Media release, Aug 14
Stephen Goodwin, Mountain Districts Association
Interview, Aug 14
Jane Smith, Central Coast Council
Jackie Pearson, journalist