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Residents fear West Gate Tunnel toxic soil dump on their doorstep

The couple is among many other residents and schools near landfills in Melbourne’s north and north-west who do not want the contaminated soil dumped on their doorstep.

A decision has not yet been made on where to send the soil, but Maddingley, which plans to expand its operations by 100 hectares to take the soil, is a likely candidate.

Others on the shortlist include Cleanaway in Ravenhall and Hi-Quality in Bulla, which plans to expand its operations by 25 hectares for the project’s soil.

However, residents’ key concern is a lack of transparency. The results of borehole tests for PFAS levels across the West Gate Tunnel site have been kept secret. The government has said there are low traces of PFAS, but residents want proof.

Werribee activist Lisa Heinrichs is keeping a close eye on the Wyndham Vale rail yard to ensure a government proposal to use it for temporary soil storage does not go ahead.

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Residents send her daily updates about truck movements and photos of number plates. Ms Heinrichs has even tried to quiz truck drivers about the soil they’re transporting. “The community is as alert as ever,” she said.

Bacchus Marsh Grammar principal Andrew Neal said the majority of parents at his school, which has 2700 students, had expressed concerns about PFAS soil going to Maddingley, just 800 metres away.

The school has hired expert consultants to investigate the health and traffic impacts of the proposal, with the tunnel builders planning to send one truckload of soil to the landfill site every six minutes.

“If there’s nothing to see here, show us the data and we’ll shut up,” Mr Neal said. “We’ve asked for details about that and we’re told its commercial-in-confidence.”

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A spokeswoman for the West Gate Tunnel project said the levels of PFAS in the soil from tunnel-boring were expected to be “low and at safe levels for the community and the environment with appropriate controls”.

A Transurban spokeswoman said the Environment Protection Authority would decide how the PFAS soil was disposed of and the project’s builders were working on a “tailored solution for tunnelling that meets all the relevant EPA requirements”.

“Testing indicates the levels of PFAS expected to be found during tunnelling are lower than what’s considered acceptable by authorities in recreational water,” she said.

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