Urgent State Government inquiry into Ipswich waste odours needed

Council is calling for an urgent state inquiry to ensure the health impacts of ongoing stench from private waste operators is appropriately investigated.

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding moved a Mayoral Minute at the Ordinary Council meeting on 19 May, supported by fellow Councillors, to seek Queensland Health intervention into the current waste odour event in Ipswich.

“We need to protect our community,” Mayor Harding said.

“The Queensland Government has powers available to it under the Public Health Act 2005 to hold panels of inquiry into public health events and given the impact that residents in surrounding suburbs are reporting, I believe the State Government has an obligation to investigate.”

Council passed two recommendations enabling Mayor Harding to write to Health Minister Yvette D’Ath requesting a panel of inquiry into the lingering smell and for CEO Sonia Cooper to write to the Acting Director-General of Queensland Health requesting that it be registered as an environmental health event.

New Chum Waste Disposal Facility

Cleanaway’s New Chum site, an engineered landfill, is located within a zoned industrial precinct on the site of a former coal mine and has been operating since 1998.

New Chum receives about 200,000 tonnes of waste from the Ipswich community and further afield each year. It includes construction waste, dry commercial waste and soils. The site is also licensed to accept limited regulated waste, including asbestos.

Landfill gas is currently being extracted from the landfill, largely methane resulting from decomposition of waste, for burning using a flare.

Mayor Harding acknowledged that odour concerns were being investigated by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) after a sharp rise in complaints to the environmental regulator’s Odour Abatement Taskforce, but that extra action is needed to protect the community’s health.

“The stench is horrendous. It is extremely distressing and frustrating for the community and the regulator’s action on this matter has been welcomed by council,” Mayor Harding said.

“While DES is investigating the environment, Queensland Health should also investigate the impact this event is having on residents’ health and wellbeing.

“Any ongoing compliance action won’t be meaningful until the odour ceases, and the community are satisfied that their health has not been compromised.

“It has gone on long enough. We are seeking Queensland Health’s direct assistance in managing the current health issues that are being experienced by our community, who are deeply concerned that the odours they experience are negatively impacting their health.

“State Minister for Environment Meaghan Scanlon attended the “Stop the Stink” community event on 10 April 2022 and has committed to an independent review into nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act.

“However, this does little to address the immediate concerns of the local community in regard to the negative health impacts of the odours and landfill sites that they are reporting now.

“Immediate intervention is required from the Queensland Government to acknowledge this issue as an Environmental Health Event and to establish a panel of inquiry to address the long-term health and environmental impacts of this event and to either reassure our community that their health is not at risk, or to identify necessary actions to protect their health.”

People power recently put the proposed Remondis Energy from Waste
facility at Swanbank on the back burner.

The Public Health Act 2005 defines an Environmental Health Event as an event involving human exposure to a substance or other thing that is known to have, or is reasonably suspected of having, an adverse effect on human health; or exposure may happen in connection with — (a) a single identifiable event (b) a situation that happens over a period of time.

Mayor Harding said residents were reporting a range of health concerns as a result of the ongoing stink.

“Residents impacted report a range of negative health impacts including headaches, sore eyes and throats, nausea and vomiting, chest pains and respiratory irritation,” Mayor Harding said.

“These odours are also having a significant and detrimental impact on their mental health and quality of life.

“This is a terrible situation where they must keep doors and windows closed, cannot use their backyards or entertaining areas and can’t dry washing outside as it gets contaminated by the smell.

“It shouldn’t have to be on council to call on the Minister to use the powers available to them to act to protect residents’ health, and it’s disappointing that more isn’t being done.”

On 10 April the community held a “Stop the Stink” public meeting at the Riverview and District Community Centre in response to significant odour issues impacting the suburbs surrounding the Cleanaway site in New Chum.

The government’s odour abatement task force formed in 2018 following growing complaints in the community in respect to odour, dust and environmental issues.

Since that time, the taskforce had received over 16,000 complaints in relation to odour, dust and environmental issues in the Swanbank Industrial Area.

Read also:

>>> Off-leash ‘pup-up’ park to celebrate Ipswich’s vibrant city heart

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