News State Tasmania News Oil seepage into Tasmania’s Blythe River ‘disgusts’ Burnie residents now wanting urgent council action

Oil seepage into Tasmania’s Blythe River ‘disgusts’ Burnie residents now wanting urgent council action

A bird is pictured covered in oil after being pulled from the sludge
A bird is pictured covered in oil after being pulled from the sludge. Photo: Facebook: Maureen Richardson
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Residents of a town on the north-west coast of Tasmania are “disgusted” and “frustrated” about an “oily sludge” that is seeping into a nearby river and bushland.

Burnie resident Maureen Richardson posted her frustration on Facebook on Thursday and said she was disgusted a “greasy, smelly, oily waste continues to run down into the Blythe River”.

Following her post, she uploaded two pictures of a bird covered in the brown, oozing sludge, calling on the people responsible for “illegally dumping their waste product” to rectify the situation.

“This is not a once off, it continues to happen day in, day out,” said said.

“Native ducks have disappeared, and we’ve seen more than one covered in this slime with no way to save them.

“[On Thursday] we came across two very weak, struggling black thrushes drowning in it and our best efforts to clean them was fruitless. God only knows how long they had been trying to get out of it.”

Ms Richardson told the ABC the sludge had covered about 300 metres of road outside the Burnie property currently being leased by Tasmanian Stockfeed (TASStockfeed).

TASStockfeed’s Trevor MacLeod confirmed seepage was coming from the land he leased, that it had nothing to do with his operation, and he was just as concerned as everyone else.

Ms Richardson said a pipe came from the property under the road, and then travelled into the river.

“I don’t actually know what it is, but it’s boiling up out of the ground, some of its very orange in colour, and some of its a congealed, gelatine-like substance,” she said.

“We came across two very weak, struggling black thrushes drowning in it,” Ms Richardson said. Photo: Facebook/ Maureen Richardson

Ms Richardson said she and her partner Shorty Halfacre alerted the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) last year.

“We were told the problem was addressed, but when we stopped on Thursday we noticed it was still a mess,” she said.

“It’s been over 12 months, and it’s just disgusting this continues to happen and everyone just wants to push the blame on someone else.

“The EPA said it was up to the Burnie [City] Council to deal with it. At the end of the day it needs to be fixed and someone needs to take responsibility.”

Property lessee getting phone threats

Mr Macleod said the company had only started leasing the site recently.

“We don’t own the site, we’ve just taken over the equipment that’s in one of the buildings,” he said.

“The site has an old tailings dam from previous operators on the site, which seems to have issues with overflow every winter.

“The owners of the site are trying to rectify it, but it’s going to keep happening even after we’ve left unless something major is done.”

Mr Macleod said the public backlash has been extremely damaging to his small business’s reputation.

“We’ve been getting threatening phone calls to our family. I’m just glad my kids haven’t picked up and been told to ‘die like the couple of birds that died’,” he said.

“We’re not at fault, so we’re hoping that when people realise, it’s an existing and ongoing problem, that it’ll be sorted from there.

“The owners are trying to keep water away from the dam and fix the drainage issues … I think the work that is being done will rectify the problem, and it needs to, because it’s not very good.”

Mr Macleod said the oil had been on the site for over the past six to seven years, and the tailings dam had work done 12 months ago.

He said the issue had been flagged with the Council.

“TASStockfeed immediately changed the previous process when it took over the site, and has not further contributed to any waste in the dam since,” Mr Macleod said.

Council ‘defies’ clean-green Tasmania image

Burnie City Council alderman Ken Dorsey said the sludge “defies the image of clean and green, which is the image of Tasmania”.

“I wrote to the council officers who said the matter was under control and that it’s with the EPA,” he said.

“At some point, someone is going to have to take responsibility, and if its the Council’s job to take responsibility then we should act immediately.”

An EPA spokeswoman said they were first notified of the “intermittent discharge of liquid waste” in June 2016.

“Enquiries into the reported incident showed the facility is a level-1 premises and activities at the site are regulated by council,” she said.

“EPA Tasmania has provided support and advice to council during Council’s investigations into the matter.”

The Burnie City Council Mayor Anita Dow said the council was investigating.

“Following the completion of that, council will take action under the legislative powers that are available to it,” she said.


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