During January and February 2018, 13 Casey residents contacted council reporting that dust from a market garden in Pearcedale was infiltrating their homes, affecting their health and resulting in expensive cleaning bills.
The City of Casey’s Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) investigated the matter and found the gardens had been operating for roughly 20 years under an ‘as-of-right’ use that prevented council from enforcing local environmental management planning regulations.
“Residents reported they were having to spend thousands of dollars on cleaning because of the dust,” the OPLE said.
“It was affecting the residents’ liveability, but the council felt they didn’t have the necessary regulatory power or compliance tools to address it – which is where EPA could assist.”
The OPLE determined that dust from the gardens was likely to be PM10 or smaller, and in breach of the pollution of atmosphere provisions in the Environment Protection Act 1970.
“High levels of PM10 particles in the air can irritate the eyes and throat, and have serious impacts on people with heart and lung conditions.”
The OPLE issued the duty holder with a Pollution Abatement Notice (notice) in April 2018.
The notice required the duty holder to modify the top level of soil in exposed fields to prevent dust emissions in the short-term and provide an action plan for preventing future dust emissions.
The duty holder worked with the OPLE to ensure compliance with the notice and engaged a consultant to develop an environmental management plan (EMP) for the site.
“Their interim solution was to put on a cover crop to knit the surface soil together and stop it blowing away. But being a cyclical farm, they can’t have the cover crop on forever, so their EMP seeks to minimise the time the site is left cleared.”
The notice was revoked after the duty holder demonstrated their compliance.
“This was a long-standing issue for residents, so it was great that the OPLE program could get an outcome for them. We’ll continue to monitor the garden to ensure the dust plan is upheld.”
Further information about preventing air pollution can be found here.