Goulburn's Common St recycling yard under investigation

NOT HAPPY: Kevin Peterson is far from impressed with the Common St Recycling yard next to his home. However the Environment Protection Authority has acted on his concerns. Photo: Louise Thrower
NOT HAPPY: Kevin Peterson is far from impressed with the Common St Recycling yard next to his home. However the Environment Protection Authority has acted on his concerns. Photo: Louise Thrower

KEVIN Peterson says he wasn’t able to invite people around for a barbecue up until a short time ago.

That’s when he built a wall on his veranda hiding the view to the recycling yard next door.

He and wife, Noelline, both pensioners, live next to Common Street Recycling, a facility approved to receive building and demolition waste. It is located in the former Gulson’s brickyard, but is not associated with the Gulson family.

Since December the pile has been quickly building to fence level, raising community questions about health implications and location.

“I catch a rat every day in my home and that was never the case before,” Mr Peterson said.

The Petersons say the pile doesn’t smell. However, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating an odour complaint.

Mr Peterson has been to the council six times about the site, but “couldn’t get them to look”. Staff referred him to a Wollongong-based government agency. Finally in May the EPA took an interest and has been monitoring ever since.

“They have been very good,” Mr Peterson said.

“...It’s ridiculous because it’s in the city limits. They shouldn’t have been allowed to put it there.”

Site licensee Chris Eveson vehemently rejects any suggestion the facility contains putrescible (organic solid) waste. 

...It’s ridiculous because it’s in the city limits. They shouldn’t have been allowed to put it there.

Resident Kevin Peterson

“There is no problem, there is no smell, and there are no rodents,” he said this week.

“If there was a problem, the EPA would have shut us down.

“The neighbours didn’t understand from the start what it was approved for. All of them were consulted.”

Mr Eveson also operates Southern State Waste Recycling out of Canberra. He insists all of the material he’s bringing to Goulburn is sorted in his resource and recovery centre first and only contains recyclables and not putrescibles.

Common St Recycling is a separate entity of which he is licensee and his father, the owner.

His father bought the site in 2011, but they have relied on a 2001 council consent for “virgin excavated natural material, building and demolition waste and general or specific exempt waste”. The latter means it must meet all resource and recovery conditions: in other words, be recyclable.

Mattresses are visible from the fence line, but Mr Eveson claims these are allowed, along with plastics, bricks and concrete, timber and all forms of steel.

The consent was slightly modified in 2011. 

The majority of waste emanates from what Mr Eveson says are “clean-ups” of new housing areas in Canberra.

“It is a full recycling business,” he said.

A council spokesman confirmed putrescible waste was not covered in the consent.

“The council has been in consistent discussions with the EPA for some time in regard to this site,” he said. 

“We have met on site and we will continue to work closely with the EPA to ensure compliance.”

Asked whether there was evidence of a breach, the spokesman said this should be directed to the EPA.

An EPA spokeswoman said the department had been carrying out regular inspections of the site including “monitoring the type, height and volume of materials being stored at the facility”.

“At this time, the EPA  has not identified putrescible waste being brought to the site,” she said.

“We have recently received a complaint about odour being generated from the premises.

“A standard licence condition prohibits the operator from emitting offensive odours from the facility. The EPA is investigating the complaint and has also reiterated this licence condition to the owner of the Common Street facility.”

The licence also carries obligation to manage the site in a “competent manner,” including control of pests and vermin.

The spokeswoman said the EPA was considering all aspects of compliance.

‘Unsightly’

But for now the waste is highly visible, despite fencing, and is prompting plenty of social media comment.

“The fact people are claiming this is illegal is outrageous,” Mr Eveson said.

He told the Post he was bringing three to four truckloads per week, each carrying 18 to 20 tonnes. By “early next year” it will be buried in a deep pit on the site, but preparation work must be done first. 

Mr Eveson says the waste is regularly sprayed with water to mitigate dust and fire risk. 

Longer-term, the licensee wants to transform the current dumping area into an industrial park, shopping centre or industrial park.

Meantime, Mr Peterson is coping with a large soil mound Mr Eveson built up against his fence several weeks ago. It’s designed to stop rubbish blowing into his yard.

Over at Masonic Village, unit residents aren’t happy either.

“It’s just an eyesore,” Berrice Butler said.

“I stand in my lounge room and it’s all I can see.”

Residents were told in a meeting several years ago the facility would not smell, issue noise or disrupt their lives.

Neighbour Dorothy Hanley has no complaints.

“It’s ugly to look at, but we all know what’s going on,” she said.

“They’ll fill up the hole with garbage.”

But Lindsay and Ann Marshall said they had major concerns about rodents, fire risk and health impacts.

‘I’m a Vietnam [veteran] and former firefighter and I don’t need to see that garbage out my back door,” Mr Marshall said.