Toxic shock for residents

Houses now sit over the old landfill

By Tate Papworth


More than 80 properties built on and around the closed Sunshine landfills are sitting on buried waste and are being exposed to methane gas.

A comprehensive EPA and Brimbank council investigation has revealed 82 properties are affected, including 75 privately owned.

Of those, 69 are residential and six are businesses.

The old Sunshine Landfills

The site in question encompasses Energy Park and is in the heart of the state government’s designated priority precinct.

It covers a large area, including existing homes located on Denton Avenue, Karen Place and Toora Court.

According to confidential documents seen by Star Weekly, a “high risk” to the health of “off-site workers and the public in the commercial or recreational facilities, including the Bocce Club” [near Carrington Drive Reserve], has also been identified.

A review of the health risks, including an assessment of explosion and asphyxiation from bulk landfill gas accumulation, is being undertaken.

Up to seven government-owned properties are also impacted, including four community groups occupying sites on council land, open spaces and the M80 Ring Road.

The council began informing affected residents last week.

The Sunshine landfills were used through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s to dispose of household waste and large amounts of liquid and solid industrial waste.

It is believed the landfill sites accepted a range of waste products including liquid waste (such as acids, caustic, alkalis, engine oil, paint residue, solvents) and “spent radioactive” waste.

Council insists health risks are low.

Brimbank council has insisted the risk to human and animal health is low and is expected to keep reducing over time.

Monitoring of the affected sites is ongoing.

However, the council could be liable for clean-up costs, remediation of the sites and even the demolition of some homes.

The council could also be liable for a claim of negligence, for failing to amend the Brimbank Planning Scheme since 1999 to disclose the location of the Sunshine landfills to innocent purchasers.

The council’s chief executive Helen Morrissey said: “Full disclosure places our community first, allowing everyone to make properly informed decisions about the future.

“We will continue to monitor the closed Sunshine landfills under the guidance of the EPA to maximise the safety of our community and look after their health and wellbeing.

“Introducing an Environmental Audit Overlay will give greater certainty on the use and development of impacted land.”

Houses have been built over the landfill.

Star Weekly has been told a valuation of the privately owned properties impacted by the buried waste is up to $60 million, not including government-owned land.

The latest reports add to a long history of contamination across the municipality.

According to the EPA there are 19 sites within Brimbank that have been identified as requiring monitoring, clean up and management to protect community health.