Current issues

Pollution concerns in Korumburra

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Burra Foods P/L operates a milk-processing facility to the north-west of Korumburra in South Gippsland.

The facility experienced a significant milk powder fallout incident on 3 November 2014. After that event, EPA carried out inspections and assessments resulting in a penalty infringement notice and fine of $7,381 being issued to Burra Foods.

EPA has received 93 pollution reports about this issue concerning odour, milk powder fallout, wastewater discharge and noise since January 2014. As a result of these reports, EPA has issued Burra Foods with six remedial pollution notices.

Pollution reports received between November 2014 and October 2015

Corumburra pollution reports Nov 14 to Oct 15

EPA's regulatory actions

EPA acknowledges that some residents have concerns in regards to previous licence breaches and the impact subsequent pollution has had on the local community.

In response to reports of pollution from both the surrounding community and Burra Foods itself, EPA has conducted 27 site inspections and 39 pollution report assessments over the last two years. As a result, EPA has issued six pollution abatement notices (PANs), which require Burra Foods to undertake certain actions by specific dates:

  • 6 November 2014: PAN – milk powder fall out onto residential premises in Korumburra – complete
  • 12 November 2014: PAN – self reported exceedance of discharge of waste water to Coalition Creek – complete
  • 24 November 2014: PAN – self reported exceedance of discharge of waste water into Coalition Creek – complete
  • 4 December 2014: PAN – auditor approved compliance monitoring program – complete
  • 16 February 2015: PAN – storm water containment – complete
  • 11 September 2015:  PAN – odour management  – due for completion 7 April 2016

EPA will work with Burra Foods to minimise disturbances from the facility. Local EPA officers have conducted rapid odour response monitoring, to ensure community reports are responded to quickly.

Reporting pollution

Report odour pollution to EPA immediately you are affected by it, so that our officers can confirm odours and trace them – an essential element of investigation:

For EPA to have the best chance of tracking the odour to its source, the odour needs to be strong and persist for more than a few minutes. When reporting, try to accurately describe the characteristics of the odour, as well as the weather conditions — particularly wind strength and direction.

EPA is most effective when community reports of odour pollution indicate a sudden event or systemic failure at the operator’s facility. The most effective way to report pollution is to call EPA’s pollution hotline immediately; doing this will give EPA officers the best chance of verifying your report and identifying its source.

Q and A on Burra foods + Expand all Collapse all

  • Why were community reports not included in Burra Foods’ annual performance statement (APS) last year?

    Each business must list all pollution reports that result in licence non-compliance in its APS.

    Burra Foods’ 2014–15 APS was submitted in September 2015.

  • Why does EPA use self-reporting to manage licensed sites?

    An APS is a public declaration of the licence holder’s performance against its licence conditions – its environmental performance – during the previous financial year. The APS must be signed by the most senior executive in the company. Significant penalties, including jail terms, exist for executives who provide false or misleading information to EPA.

    EPA uses APS information to target licence inspections. This may occur on an individual level, such as repeated non-compliances that need to be remedied, or on a broader level, such as targeting action in certain sectors or on specific conditions. EPA may also assess some or all of a site’s APS declarations during a standard licence compliance inspection, particularly with regard to a site’s monitoring program.

  • How does EPA issue penalties and sanctions?

    EPA’s Compliance and enforcement policy articulates our approach, method and priorities for ensuring compliance with the Environment Protection Act, as well its compliance and enforcement powers.

    EPA’s approach to sanctions is outlined on page 22 of the Compliance and enforcement policy (publication 1388).

  • What does the odour consist of?

    The main components of odour generated by a dairy processing facility include the volatile sulfur groups:

    • hydrogen sulfide – H2S – unpleasant egg odour
    • dimethyl sulfide – unpleasant cabbage odour
    • methyl mercaptan – unpleasant cabbage odour (it is added to natural gas as a safety measure so humans can detect gas is present)
    • dimethyl disulphide – unpleasant garlic-like odour
    • ammonia – unpleasant strong urine odour.

    Exposure to odour for eight hours for most people, including those more susceptible to smells, may cause discomfort and/or irritation. However, these symptoms will fade once the exposure stops. EPA needs to have an identified source of the odour in order to investigate what the odour components are. EPA is currently investigating sampling using canisters as they are most sensitive to odour detection.

    EPA has issued pollution abatements notices (PANs) in relation to odour. Burra Foods has complied with these PANs, which has resulted in a significant reduction in odour incidents.

  • Can EPA monitor and test Coalition Creek each month?

    EPA collects water samples at Coalition Creek in response to reports of pollution or licence breaches. Burra Foods also monitors the discharge points in accordance with its licence and this data is available through its APS statement. EPA would also encourage Korumburra residents to consider joining a program such as Waterwatch and monitoring Coalition Creek’s health for their own information.

    Residents can contact the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority for more information and also to understand what testing and results they may have available.

  • When reporting via the 24-hour pollution hotline, why are residents asked so many questions?

    EPA’s pollution hotline operates 24/7, so you will always have your call answered. On average, 80 per cent of calls are answered within 20 seconds and the maximum wait time for callers is six minutes.

    Customer service representatives who answer calls need to ask a series of questions to ensure each pollution report is recorded and escalated as quickly and effectively as possible. The information you provide is an important part of this process.

    You can also report pollution online.

  • What is causing vibration at the site?

    Burra Foods is conducting a whole-of-site noise review with an external consultant. The results of this testing may help identify what causes the vibration disturbance that some community members have experienced.

  • Are there any health impacts of the milk powder fallout or from the odour, including effects on fruit and vegetables?

    The risks associated with milk powder fallout and odours from the site are considered low. EPA’s role is to be an effective environmental regulator and an influential authority on environmental impacts.

    Questions about human health impacts can be answered by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). EPA can help you contact DHHS if you have ongoing concerns.

Page last updated on 2 Dec 2015