Solid Wastes

Here are some suggestions for the sort of things you might like to include about Solid Wastes in your submissions to the CIS Assessment Panel due 12 December 2013:

“The potential impacts to human health & the environment due to construction activities & management of spoil (solid waste) have been considered at a local context with regard to contamination” (Technical Appendix N, p 11).

Technical Appendix N, p.i goes on to say:

Potential Impacts documented in the CIS are 

  • Affect the maintenance of ecosystems, parks reserves, gardens residential, recreational open space etc.
  • Adversely affect human health
  • Cause the land to become corrosive & adversely affect the integrity structures or building materials
  • Cause the land to be offensive to the senses.”

RATS Response

The CIS materially fails to address the objective to minimise the risks from disturbance & disposal of solid wastes because a comprehensive assessment of the risks was never conducted. The assessment of risk performed by the expert and detailed in the CIS was limited to a “desktop review” (Appendix 4.2.1) and accordingly can only be considered cursory and not comprehensive. Minimisation of risk cannot occur if a comprehensive assessment was never performed.

This failing & weakness is acknowledged by the independent expert in their report (Appendix N Section 4.3) where they detail the numerous & extensive assumptions they draw upon in order to somehow assess & minimise risk. Clearly the expert details these assumptions, in order to materially qualify their opinion & to avoid challenge to their opinion by someone who had conducted a more comprehensive study. The need to make these extensive assumptions, highlight the limitations of the CIS surrounding solid waste management as they clearly outline the preferred method of the independent expert and that the desktop review of data provided has not been reviewed for accuracy or its interpretation.

Some of the assumptions (Appendix N Section 4.3) made by the expert give evidence to their failure to conduct a “comprehensive” assessment. In particular we refer to the following assumptions

  1. “GHD relied on information supplied by others which may not have been independently verified. Intrusive investigation for the purpose of soil sampling, analytical testing and geological logging were not undertaken. It should be noted that soil contamination is not always obvious from visual inspection”. This is a clear admission that the preferred and more comprehensive method of undertaking an impact assessment was not performed.
  2. “Image resolution issues may have led to uncertainties in interpretation of historical photos”. This is acknowledgment that there are severe limitations & interpretation concerns as to the desktop review.
  3. The independent expert has relied upon & assumes geological mapping and surrounding information supplied by the proponent of the project (LMA) is reasonably accurate. Apart from the clear conflict of interest, it would appear a crazy “Catch 22” scenario where the LMA has engaged an independent expert because they have the expert skills and fact finding abilities to gather evidence and interpret data in order to make a comprehensive impact statement, but the expert has then relied upon the client to provide the necessary accurate and complete information. Are they an expert, if they are unsure of the accuracy of the information provided? One would assume a true expert would know if the information and geological mapping was accurate. It would appear that the information supplied by the LMA to the expert can only be assumed to be “reasonably accurate”. What is the experts’ definition of reasonably accurate? When conducting risks assessment of contaminated soil with severe potential impacts, it is not comprehensive to “assume the information is reasonably accurate”. What error factor have they allowed for in forming their “comprehensive” opinion?  How can any associated risk rating matrix be viewed with any confidence?
  4. The expert has assumed “approximately 2.5 to 3 million tonnes of spoil material will be required to be managed”. Is there no accurate measurement available? If not, then one should be conducted. An error factor of 20% or half a million tonnes suggests there has not been a comprehensive analysis. What if this assumption is inaccurate & the amount of material to manage is 4 million tonnes?
    1. “Previously completed bore holes, bore locations and associated logs and interpretations are accurate”. It is incredulous that the expert has not reviewed the raw data & made their own interpretation if they are not prepared to conduct their own soil sampling, geological testing and analysis. Making the assumption that interpretations of data are accurate acknowledges that they may in fact be inaccurate or another interpretation of the data may be concluded.  The experts clearly have concerns as to interpretation of the data and that data is subject to a mixture of interpretations. With so much doubt surrounding the accuracy of both the data and its interpretation, how can the assessment of risk be considered comprehensive?

Other factors indicating the inadequacy of the CIS

  1. The documents relied upon to perform this “desktop assessment” are not current. Many of the documents are in excess of ten years old. The Geological surveys being relied upon were performed in 1974 & 1980. (Appendix N 4.2.1)
  2. The independent expert further qualifies their report in Appendix N section 4.5 by highlighting the severe limitations surrounding the availability of data & information. The summary of these further disclaimers / qualifications to their report in Appendix N Section 4.5 is that the independent expert is concerned about 6 factors which make it difficult to be sure of the impacts of the proposed project. The 6 factors affecting the accuracy of data  & information are as follows
  • “The level & distribution of contaminated soil, rock & groundwater within the construction footprint”. We can only interpret this to mean that they do not have enough data to accurately quantify (to an acceptable level of accuracy) the level & distribution of contamination in it various forms. Perhaps this is because the same expert in appendix M of the CIS has acknowledged that tunnel & portal works and the damming effect of the tunnel have the potential to mobilise existing highly contaminated water & hence spread contamination to currently relatively unaffected areas.  We note that in Appendix M, the expert fails to quantify the potential geographical spread of this further contamination. Perhaps this concern for the unknown geographical spread of contaminated groundwater, explains the vagueness of estimated amount of spoil that will result from the proposed project.
  • “Likelihood of disturbance of potential and actual acid sulfate soils given that the Reference project and method of construction has yet to be defined”. This is acknowledgement by the independent expert of the recurring theme we have highlighted throughout our response, that the comprehensive impact statement has not been performed because the proponent of the project has yet to define what the project is.
  • “Quantities of contaminated soils and actual acid sulphate soils required to be treated prior to disposal to a licenced landfill facility”. As previously indicated, the expert is clearly unsure as to amount of contaminated water and soil that may need treatment prior to disposal. If the expert does not know the amount of soil requiring treatment prior to disposal, this also indicates they do not know the level of contamination that exists underground in the undefined proposed project area. Only soils with a contamination grade of “A” require such treatment on site.

The lack of reasonable certainty as to the level of contamination (all areas are contaminated) potentially raises concern for residents safety & amenity. Greater amounts of material requiring on site treatment could delay the project and hence extend the time residents may have to live within close proximity of a potentially dangerous construction zone. This impact has not been addressed by the CIS.

  • “The likely volume of contaminated water that would require treatment & management during the tunnel construction”. Again the CIS has failed to address this issue. Again the safety and amenity of residents, workers will be compromised without adequate assessment of the risk.
  • “The potential for vapour intrusion into the tunnelling void during construction and operation from the contamination present along the alignment particularly-in particular between Queens Parade & Gold Street Fitzroy. (I assume they mean Gold St , Collingwood). It is of particular concern that it is unknown whether there could be contaminated vapour intruding into the tunnel area both during & after construction. This indicates that this potential safety issue may never be resolved as it is acknowledged that it may continue into the operational phase of the proposed project. Do they plan to advise potential users of the tunnel of this problem? What are the potential safety concerns for residents?

“Locations of the laydown/ soil treatment areas for stockpile soil and rock material that may require additional sampling / treatment prior to disposal or treatment prior to transportation to another treatment facility. Again this highlights that the cursory approach taken to assessing the risk, has meant that neither the number nor location of contaminated stockpiles has been identified. This is understandable when the level of contamination and the amount of contaminated matter is unknown. Again the CIS has completely failed to give an appropriate assessment of the potential impacts.7