Matted Flax lilly
Here in the City of Moreland we have a highly urbanised environment, but we still have parks and creeks that permeate through our suburbs. A wealth of natural species, including at least 36 threatened species, manage to co-exist with human settlement and all of our buildings and roads.
Today – September 7 – is National Threatened Species Day, and we should pay attention to the species threatened with extinction in both our local environment and nationally.
Here in Moreland some species have learnt to live among the houses and roads and in the street trees we have planted.
Many more live in the parkland environments along watercourses and flood mitigation basins and wetlands, including along Merri Creek, Moonee Ponds Creek and Merlynston Creek.
A few find some refuge along the Upfield rail verge. Some find solace and nesting holes in mature trees and live among our dead in the Fawkner and Northern Memorial Cemeteries.
At least 36 threatened species partially live or visit Moreland. Many are bird species which visit the area, but we also have moths, lizards, dragons, fish, frogs, flying foxes and grassland flowers. Each is unique.
Residents of Fawkner gathered on Sunday for a public meeting to discuss the toxic legacy site at 100 and 102 McBryde street and the surrounds. The meeting was held at Fawkner Public School, kindly provided by the school principal.
A development application to erect warehouses at 102 McBryde street is currently before Moreland Council Urban Planning Committee. A Council Officer proposed motion was given to Councillors an hour before the last Urban Planning Committee meeting. As this is a contentious issue Councillors voted to defer a decision on this application to September.
Excerpt from Hume Council walking and Cycling Strategy Action Plan 2010-2015
The Upfield bike path, a shared use path that thousands of cyclists and pedestrians use every day, strangely doesn’t go all the way to Upfield. In fact it doesn’t exist, except as a poor dirt track in places beside the railway line, within Hume municipality. But Hume Council is now on board to make this path happen. Will the Labor State Government come to the party?
The bike path currently finishes at Box Forest Road in Fawkner.
Extending the path up to Barry Road and Upfield station during the Camp Road level crossing removal would make a great deal of sense, opening up to many Hume municipality residents and cyclists a safe route to Brunswick, Coburg and the Melbourne CBD.
Questions were raised about the Fawkner toxic site in McBryde street at Moreland’s August Council meeting regarding EPA site testing, environmental audits, testing the footpath, and whether all information was provided to planning application objectors. A report on these questions will be presented at the September Council meeting.
EPA is changing? May 2017
Whether it is the Morwell mine fire, toxic soil contamination in Fawkner or the Fire in Coolaroo we need the EPA to be a champion for the community, but to do that it needs adequate resourcing, including in house scientific expertise, a rapid response for monitoring pollution events, willingness and resources to enforce regulatory compliance, and a change in the behavioural culture with regard to engagement with local communities to champion environmental justice.
Earthmatters program on 3CR community radio looked at the changes to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA Victoria) through the prism of two local communities and Environment Justice Australia. The program was broadcast on Sunday, 30 July 2017.
These interviews explain longstanding community reticence regarding working with the EPA, in trusting their methodologies in often slow deployment of monitoring and testing, and their poor communication and engagement with local communities.
Listen to Wendy Farmer from Voices from the Valley (Facebook) in Morwell and Brian Snowden from Toxic free Fawkner (Facebook) on two community experiences with the EPA Victoria.
Photo by MFB
On 13th July a mountain of fire erupted in bales of recycled plastics and paper at the SKM Recycling facility in Maffra Street, Coolaroo producing voluminous smoke and fumes. Sadly, the extensive water employed by the Fire Brigade to try and bring the fire under control made it’s way with contaminants into local waterways, primarily Merlynston Creek.
Smoke and fumes from the mountain of burning plastic and paper in the SKM recycling plant in Coolaroo caused several hundred people to evacuate from their homes in the immediate area. At least 110 homes in the immediate area were door knocked for evacuation on the Thursday evening due to very poor air quality readings.
Even the Upfield train line was closed down for a time on July 14, with buses replacing trains from North Melbourne to Upfield.
The smoke plume and fumes spread over and affected residents and workers in a wide area including the suburbs of Meadow Heights, Dallas, Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Coburg, Fawkner, Glenroy, Pascoe Value, Roxburgh Park, Strathmore and Westmeadows.
Jumping to conclusions too soon is bad reporting. The following story was run by the Moreland Leader on Monday 17th July yet we are still awaiting the results of tests for furins and dioxins from Germany from the EPA test samples.
Residents have also queried the methodology for the EPA test samples, being limited to surface water samples only from behind the factory and from Merri Creek, offering only a very limited assessment of surface signs of contamination associated with the whole area. The EPA April tests did not take any samples from 100 or 102 McBryde street for testing.
The news report also does not take into account that the owners agents raised at the Planning information and discussion meeting on 29 June that they have drilled some holes to test the depth of the clay cap at 102 McBryde street, and their limited testing of the soil beneath the cap found it was still contaminated at a level consistent with the 1995 environmental audit report.
Just for the record, this question was asked in State Parliament on 8th June by Greens MLC Colleen Hartland covering both reform of the EPA and the management plan for the Fawkner Toxic site.
The EPA conducted tests in April. I understand these tests amounted to surface water from behind 100-102 McBryde Street and water in Merri Creek. The question needs to be asked: were these tests sufficient to report “no contamination beyond the site”? We don’t know the exact location where these samples were undertaken. We are still waiting for test results from Germany regarding furans and dioxins.
See below for a 1990 map indicating the possible extent of contamination:
1990 map of toxic zone area to be fenced off in Fawkner
We do know that the owners have drilled some holes to test the depth of the clay cap at 102 McBryde street, and their limited testing of the soil beneath the cap found it was still contaminated at a level consistent with the 1995 environmental audit report.
You can access the 1995 Environmental Audit report at the EPA Interaction Portal. (Enter Transaction #: 8000314 for Audit Report, Executive Summary and Appendices)
Looking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing
The state government will be proceeding with the Camp Road level crossing removal commencing later this year, with the crossing removed by early 2018. Now is an ideal time to push for track duplication from Gowrie to Upfield and extension of the Upfield Bike Path to Barry Road.
When construction starts, services on the Upfield line can be expected to terminate at Gowrie station, with a bus service to Upfield replacing the train. There is no estimate for when or how long the disruption might take. While service is disrupted would be an ideal time to actually upgrade and improve the rail line and associated bike path.
So we have dioxin contaminated site at 100 and 102 McBryde st, Fawkner, and now VicRoads wants to subdivide 104B McBryde street just north of the contaminated site.
Perhaps 25 houses and a road to go in. The subdivision plan encroaches closer than 50 metres to Merri creek which means it fails to comply with Moreland’s open space strategy.
We need a full and open environmental audit of the contaminated site and surrounds before we do any sub-division and development. That’s simple precautionary principle.
The risks from living near a toxic site are not clear, but if not managed properly could have a high impact on population health. We have already seen cancer clusters on McBryde street and in Reservoir in the surrounding area to the NuFarm site in the past.
Therefore we need to use the precautionary principle and oppose this sub-division development until we know the long term remediation and management of the toxic site is in hand.