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Bega Valley still seeking solution for post-fire waste problem

Genevieve Jacobs 10 March 2020
Central Waste Facility

Anthony McMahon, Director Assets & Operations Bega Valley and Kurt Marsh, Acting Waste Services Manager at the Central Waste Facility. Photo: Supplied.

A proposal to use the Bega Valley Shire’s Central Waste Facility is the most likely solution to the region’s major post-fire rubbish disposal problem.

Current estimates put the total amount of fire waste material at around 140,000 cubic metres, equivalent to around five times the volume of waste normally received in a year at the Central Waste Facility.

But while Eurobodalla Shire announced last week that they had resolved their fire waste issue after striking a deal with the NSW government, Bega Shire continues to negotiate.

Laing O’Rourke have secured the NSW Government clean-up contract across all fire-affected areas in the state. The Eurobodalla agreement means contractors can dump fire-affected waste at three local tips, which they will operate and manage for the duration of the clean-up.

Eurobodalla began negotiations five weeks ago and while Mayor Liz Innes said the delay had been frustrating, she welcomed the solution which should mean that most rubbish, including asbestos, will be cleared from Eurobodalla by June.

Further south, matters appear to have been more complicated following concerns about which disposal sites would be most suitable for the large task at hand.

“In the early days of the fire response the NSW Government asked us to investigate using sites at Cobargo, Bermagui, and Eden,” Anthony McMahon, Bega Valley’s Director Assets and Operations, said.

“We had started planning and making preparations at those sites so that when the clean up started we were ready. A number of community members, especially at Cobargo raised concerns with the plans, which we have heard.” Laing O’Rourke representatives are currently meeting with property owners in the Cobargo area.

Instead, the current plan is to use the Central Waste Facility on Wanatta Lane, North West of Wolumla.

Around 70,000 cubic metres of fire waste is believed to be contaminated with asbestos. Council is hoping to recycle or repurpose as much of the remaining uncontaminated material as possible.

“There is a real need to get going on the clean-up, so we met with residents around the CWF this morning to outline the proposal,” Mr McMahon said, adding that Council hoped to make direct contact with residents who were unable to attend the meeting.

“Understandably locals were concerned and raised questions about noise, increased truck movements, visual impacts on the landscape and understanding potential hazards tied to asbestos.

“It’s a difficult situation for any community to be in and we will work with residents to mitigate the impacts and address their concerns.

Mr McMahon said he was heartened to hear that generally, residents seemed happy with Shire’s management of the CWF and that they understood the role their community could play in the Shire wide recovery effort.

“We will continue to work with the residents of Wanatta Lane and continue to keep the Bega Valley informed as the recovery effort takes shape,” he added.

Anyone impacted by the bushfires of December, January and February should register with Service NSW in order to access the free clean up arrangements through Laing O’Rourke. To register with Service NSW call 13 77 88 or visit the Service NSW website.

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