BALLARAT City Council is facing large compensation claims from landowners in Black Hill if a former landfill site is found to have exceeded its boundaries.
Excavation works ordered by the Supreme Court of Victoria began near the site of the former Black Hill Landfill in Duggan Street yesterday, seeking to establish if rubbish under two potential development sites is the result of overflows from the dump that closed in 1981.
A 50-metre trench was dug on the site yesterday, revealing a stinking heap of landfill rubbish at least six metres deep.
Work will continue today, with another 100 metres set to be excavated into the Chisholm Street Reserve, which was established over the landfill site.
A June 19 court order required the trench to be dug in order to establish if there is a continuous line of landfill across the property boundaries.
Supreme Court Justice Karin Emmerton also ordered that samples of the material removed from the dig be analysed and gas levels recorded.
Lawyers, nearby residents and a camera crew documenting the dig watched on yesterday as landowner Mark Hosking said a planned 25-house subdivision over two properties had been scuttled by the discovery of the landfill.
“There is no question where this rubbish came from,” he said.
“In addition to anecdotal evidence that landfill was put on the land years ago, there is aerial photo evidence showing it continues over the boundary and we’re finding so much as we dig,” he said.
Mr Hosking and another landowner are part of a two-and-a-half year legal battle, which began after the rubbish was not disclosed in the Section 32 statement about the sale of the land.
He said his plan to sell seven subdivided lots at between $180,000 and $200,000 each had been shelved and instead he had accrued legal costs of more than $10,000.
“The council’s attitude is deny, deny, deny. They have no records and no one is prepared to take any responsibility and I don’t want to be bankrolling a new Mercedes-Benz for their solicitors,” he said.
Mr Hosking said the City of Ballarat planning officers had been helpful but the situation had deteriorated when lawyers became involved.
The case is expected to go back to the Supreme Court in August, but Mr Hosking called for the issue to be solved through good faith negotiation, which he believed would save ratepayers a large legal bill.
A City of Ballarat spokesperson said the works were expected to continue for up to two days, overseen by council officers and representatives of the developers.
The first stage of the trench was filled in after work was completed last night.
“Council has ensured that the contractor undertaking the works has all necessary safety measures in place and we would ask residents to notify us if they have any concerns,” the spokesperson said.
“Due to the legal proceedings, council is unable to comment further.”