Landfill fires impacting school

Sunshine Landfill . Photo by Damjan Janevski. 231116_05

Tara Murray

The principal of a school near the Kealba landfill has expressed concerns about the impact of the ongoing fires at the tip on the school community.

Residents from Kealba and nearby suburbs have long complained about the smell and health issues caused by the fires, which have been burning for more than 18 months.

Landfill operator Barro recently said it could take until May next year before the last of the fires are extinguished. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA had ordered that the fires be extinguished by the end of July.

Parents of pupils at St Paul’s Primary School in Kealba have recently complained about the odour.

The school is located on Sunshine Avenue, a couple of kilometres from the landfill.

Principal Denis Daley recently told an online community meeting held by Barro that he shared the concerns of parents.

“It is certainly offensive at times,” he said. “That has given me cause for concern in times it has been blowing in our direction.

“I have spoken with the EPA, emailed [Environment Minister] Lily D’ambrosio and [St Albans MP] Natalie Suleyman, and from where we are, there has been little satisfactory information coming back except that the EPA and Barro have it under control.

“We would beg to differ in terms of impact on the school.”

Mr Daley’s comments come after Barro’s Steve Murphy told the same meeting that he had looked to contact the school about its concerns but the principal he spoke to said there were no issues.

It was later revealed that Mr Murphy had contacted the wrong school – St Paul’s in Sunshine West.

The Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) oversees St Paul’s in Kelba.

MACS said it is aware of this issue and has advised the relevant authorities.

The meeting was an emotional one, with one resident saying the last couple years of his life had been miserable.

He said that he was too embarrassed to have visitors to house since the fires started.

In its latest community update, the EPA said it had escalated its investigation into Barro missing deadlines to have some of the hot spots extinguished.

“While EPA’s investigations into this matter are continuing, we will keep you informed over the coming weeks of the next steps,” the update said.

“We will ensure that all practicable measures are taken to resolve the hotspots and the odours impacting local communities as quickly and safely as possible.”