Fire at Cleanaway's New Chum landfill site on July 19.
Fire at Cleanaway's New Chum landfill site on July 19.

Waste company ordered to investigate landfill fire

WASTE company Cleanaway will have to pay for an independent investigation into its current stockpile and fire management processes after a blaze broke out at the Ipswich landfill site.

The order comes as Ipswich City Council announced it would conduct a fresh audit of the site this week.

The Department of Environment and Science issued Cleanaway with an Environmental Protection Order.

It will require the company to conduct an investigation into the source, cause and extent of the fire at the premises and provide a written report to the department, as well as review its security arrangements of the premises.

Cleanaway will also need to engage the services of an independent and appropriately qualified person to conduct an investigation into the current stockpile management processes and fire management arrangements and provide a list of recommendations to prevent a surface landfill fire occurring again.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the 900 sqm fire at the New Chum landfill site, which sent thick smoke through the city on Sunday, was "completely unacceptable."

Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding sent an open letter to Ms Enoch, demanding the State Government take action.

She encouraged residents impacted by the heavy smoke produced by the fire to report it to the government's Odour Abatement Taskforce.

"It is understood that the fire occurred within the State Government approved RRA (resource recovery area) and that the public has made a number of complaints to your department about the operator's onsite practices and expressed concerns about noncompliance," the letter read.

"As we understand, the waste management practices of Cleanaway at their New Chum site have been less than desirable.

Division 3 councillor Andrew Fechner, mayor Teresa Harding and deputy mayor Marnie Doyle at the New Chum landfill site.
Division 3 councillor Andrew Fechner, mayor Teresa Harding and deputy mayor Marnie Doyle at the New Chum landfill site.

"The Cleanaway facility is situated within a kilometre of a residential area and nearby residents frequently complain of dust, odour and noise from the site.

"(On Monday) smoke shrouded the surrounding suburbs and the smell of burning waste was reported in the Ipswich CBD, some nine kilometres from the facility.

"These impacts are unacceptable in a first-world country, let alone in a modern, advanced city with the fastest growing population in Queensland."

Cr Harding said it was "very distressing" that the council have "virtually no enforcement powers" when it comes to site safety and compliance.

Despite vile odours spreading several kilometres from the site, there is no legal instrument available to council to sanction Cleanaway.

"Self-regulation clearly does not work," she said.

CEO David Farmer confirmed council officers will be on site today to conduct a prearranged audit of the New Chum site.

The site's resource recovery area is a designated area approved by the State Government under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 and was part of the introduction of the waste levy in 2019.

Fire at Cleanaway's New Chum landfill site on July 19.
Fire at Cleanaway's New Chum landfill site on July 19.

This area, which includes waste to be sorted for potential reuse, is the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Science to appropriately regulate it to maintain adequate environmental standards and address the potential impacts of waste on the community.

A council spokesman said according to State Government guidelines normal operation of a landfill, and the site conditions of DES for this site, require the covering of deposited waste "as soon as practicable."

But this does not apply where there is a resource recovery area.

"The absence of clear guidelines for private operators to adhere to timelines and quantities limitations is unacceptable and grossly irresponsible and the State Government needs to review this as a matter of priority," Cr Harding said.

Cr Harding called on the government to increase costs of noncompliance, including fines, to ensure a sufficient deterrent or remove their operating licences.

"This is not the first fire on site or at other landfill operations in Ipswich. It is time the government got tough on waste and stopped inflicting major health and environmental problems on our community," she said.

Cr Harding highlighted the size, scale and scope of the resource recovery area activities and the potential for fires to occur again.

She said the area is not consistent with the provisions of the act in that there is a substantial volume of waste being stored on this site, and it is unclear if it will continue to grow.

Cr Harding said it was also unclear how the State Government expects to manage the issue other than through self-regulation.



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