Looking into lead

Michelle Slater

Latrobe City Council is investigating a system to monitor airborne and soil lead levels to provide independent, real time information in light of emerging industries in the Valley.

Latrobe City councillors supported a motion raised by Cr Melissa Ferguson at the ordinary council meeting on May 3, requesting a report into how such a system could be developed.

It will look into funding options, information sharing between authorities and the public, best practice monitoring technologies and standards.

Latrobe City will also look into the capacity for lead monitoring to be developed through the Latrobe Valley Information Network – a region wide environmental monitoring network.

The issue was raised in light of a proposed used lead acid battery recycling plant in Hazelwood North, which will be carrying out lead soil and air testing as part of its EPA Works Approvals.

Cr Ferguson said residents had lost faith in the Environmental Protection Authority and the state government’s capacity to adequately monitor air quality or enforce compliance.

She said Latrobe City would be able to use this report to advocate for the state government to fund local lead monitoring.

“It’s up to the state government to use their empathy and put something permanently in place, this will be an ongoing issue for generations,” Cr Ferguson said.

“I’m trying to think forward and get it moving so we cannot have the same debacle each time a different industry is introduced and people can feel confident in what’s being done.”

Three community members addressed councillors in support for the motion, echoing their mistrust of government agencies and calling for baseline lead levels to be established.

ALiVe secretary Maggie Jones said it was essential that the community be involved, as a “top down approach” would fail to provide any assurance.

However, Cr Tracie Lund said she did not support the motion, stating it was outside the remit of council to carry out these duties, and was the responsibility of the EPA.

Cr Lund said instead, council resources should be used to advocate to the state government to develop lead monitoring in the Latrobe Valley.

“Rate payers should not be footing the bill for investigations and reports into air monitoring systems, when it’s state government regulations that determine the quality of the air we breathe,” Cr Lund said.

But Cr Dale Harriman said council had already done a “fairly good job” of advocating to the state government after the Planning Minister stepped in to approve the ULAB application.

“I think we’ve hit a stone wall with the minister and state government, it’s obvious the minister had made his decision and there’s nothing we can do to change his mind,” Cr Harriman said.

“I think it’s one, where again, the state government has dropped us in it.”

Cr Harriman supported the motion stating it was important to have a completed report into the costing and design details to then ask the state government for further funding.