ARTICLE UPDATED WITH A RESPONSE FROM ACCESS CANBERRA, BELOW
Ever been through western Tuggeranong? Your nose might remember.
Pressure is mounting on the ACT government over the sewer-like stench that twists through parts of Tuggeranong after a Freedom of Information request into causes and mitigation strategies was denied.
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The stench, ongoing for years, has irritated residents to the point that political weight has been brought to bear.
“I have questioned the government on the issue for more than three years and they still have not come clean as to where the stench is coming from. Now, four months after I submitted an FOI request to get to the bottom of the matter it has been refused,” said Deputy Leader of the Opposition Nicole Lawder.
“Residents in my electorate are not happy that the government is not prioritising the matter. I have been trying to get answers through my FOI request and now it appears they are blocking that avenue too.”
It has been suggested that the Mugga Lane tip is causing the smell. A source close to the centre said that they “strongly doubted” the stench was coming the centre given its distance from the suburbs. Another possible culprit is sewage.
UPDATE (14:10, 16/3/2017):
We have received a statement from Access Canberra in response to this. Deputy opposition leader Ms Lawder says that the FOI request has been denied. By contrast Access Canberra, of whom the request was made, says that they have not rejected the request, only indicated that they will reject it unless the request is substantively altered.
Below is the full statement from Access Canberra.
It is important to note that the Freedom of Information request has not been denied.
Access Canberra has indicated that it may be refused if the scope of the request is not narrowed. This is due to the significant scope of Ms Lawder’s request, the time it would take to process and the resources which would be required to be diverted by the operational agency to respond.
Access Canberra has offered to work cooperatively with Ms Lawder on the narrowing of the scope to support her in receiving the information she may be seeking in a more effective and efficient way.
Yesterday (14 March 2017) Access Canberra had a conversation with Ms Lawder and there was agreement to collectively work together to narrow the scope. Following this discussion a meeting has been organised with Ms Lawder to discuss an approach that does not unreasonably divert the resources of the agency and provides her with the details she may seek.
At anytime Ms Lawder can seek, through the Legislative Assembly or responsible Minister, a briefing on this issue.
Access Canberra has received about 100 complaints in total about a periodic odour in the Tuggeranong area since November 2015 and it has been followed up as a priority.
The frequency of complaints has reduced significantly recently with only 14 complaints received between 19 July 2016 and 7 March 2017.
The Mugga Lane landfill and other potential sources of odour at the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre have been investigated by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). To date, no definitive source of the odour has been identified. While there is no definitive technical test for odour the EPA continues to work with the landfill operators and local residents on this issue.
To further support reduction in concerns the EPA has requested the waste be covered with soil at the end of each operational day at the landfill site by operators. Significant remedial works have also been undertaken around additional capping at the site.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) within Access Canberra has engaged with the affected residents in an effort to identify the source of the odour and to obtain more information about the nature and frequency of the odour but has noted a significant reduction in concerns raised.