EPA doesn’t stand in the way of East West Link

By Andrew Herington. 

It was a bad day for local residents wanting protection from increased pollution.

Despite all the evidence, it seems the EPA has shut its eyes and wants to give the green light for the EWL to proceed with no variation to the conditions.

On noise, the EPA argued against having any improved standards claiming their existing view represented best practice.

The widely supported NSW standards are much tighter but the EPA simply said that these “did not apply in Victoria”.

When questioned the EPA expert Mr Marsiglio said he wasn’t familiar with the NSW traffic noise policy. It provides tighter standards for new and existing roads and has night time limits.

The EPA published a Road Noise Bulletin in 2003 saying a draft EPA policy had been written (see Doc 224). However this “no longer has any standing” because “it was decided VicRoads were the appropriate body to regulate traffic noise”.

The EPA also said the standards for construction noise did not apply to the East West Link because it was a major project. The EPA has no particular policy on night time noise and did not see the need for one.

They endorsed the performance requirements as they stand, and opposed the suggested changes made by the Councils.

The general idea was to wait until a tenderer had been selected and then sort out the issues through a management plan for the construction works.

The problem with this approach – pointed out by the Melbourne City Council – is that there is no enforceable standard and no way of debating the issue after the planning approval has been granted.

The prospect of a mid-tunnel vent in the heart of Carlton was again raised – it would either be on the corner of Lygon St or Nicholson St. This is given very low prominence in the CIS, but would have a significant impact in a densely developed residential area.

The EPA does not require any consideration of the greenhouse contribution from construction or from increased traffic flows that increase the overall state emissions.

However, the lighting and vent fans use so much energy that they fall into the category of large energy users which are required to comply with the Protocol for Environmental Management for greenhouse gases.

A suggestion from the City of Moonee Valley in relation to efficient lighting and carbon offsets was supported, but then dismissed as “not directly related and should not be included in the performance requirement”.

On water, the EPA saw no need for the discharged water to meet the SEPP requirements and said its general policy now was that discharges only needed to match the water quality already in the creek.

When asked how this could constitute best practice and result in improvement to the Merri and Moonee Ponds Creeks they said it was a compromise allowed for by a loophole in the State Environment Protection Policy (SEPP).

On handling the contaminated soils, the EPA said they weren’t looking at storage or disposal sites for these, but would “look at any proposals when they are put to us”.

All up it was very depressing morning.

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