By Jessica Micallef
Sunbury and Bulla should not be the dumping ground for toxic soil from the West Gate Tunnel Project: that’s the message Sunbury residents are making loud and clear.
Locals have stepped up their campaign to fight Hi-Quality’s proposal to send toxic soil to the Sunbury Eco-Hub in Bulla.
They have taken their protest to the streets – decking the town with posters, stickers and signs.
Sunbury resident and creator of the Sunbury Against Toxic Soil Facebook group Chris O’Neill said he was doing as much as he could to promote the message of many residents.
“We have strategically placed banners throughout the community, we have bumper stickers and we have our website,” he said.
“We are starting to get more and more coverage which is what we need and we are getting more people talking about it … which is promising.”
Although community support is ramping up, Mr O’Neill said some residents still had no idea about Hi-Quality’s proposal.
He said it was a big concern that residents neighbouring the Sunbury Eco-Hub had not been made aware of the potential for Bulla to become a dumping ground for toxic soil.
“A person lives next door, or very close to Hi-Quality and they didn’t even know that this was happening,” he said.
“The message is not cutting through to people. It’s clear that Hi-Quality, the EPA (Environment Protection Authority) and Transurban have not engaged properly with the community.
“We heard they [Hi-Quality] dropped letters in about 2000 letterboxes. They hit less than four per cent of the population.
“They should have hit every single letterbox.”
Mr O’Neill said COVID-19 restrictions on large public gathering made it impossible for residents, including the 2700-strong members of his Facebook group, to publicly voice their anger.
“We don’t want to break the law to get the message out there … there are people itching to get out and have their say but we can’t.”
“We need to get the community behind us, help get the message out there and help alert people to the problem that faces us.” Mr O’Neill said.
The EPA approved Hi-Quality’s Environment Management Plan (EMP) in September to send the toxic soil to Bulla.
It has also approved EMP’s for Maddingly Brown Coal in Bacchus Marsh and for Cleanaway’s Ravenhall landfill.
The approval of an EMP does not mean a final decision has been made on where the soil would be sent. A site still needs approval from the state planning minister.
Transurban, the site operators of the West Gate Tunnel Project, will decide where the soil is to be processed.