By Esther Lauaki
The fight against a toxic dump in Wyndham picked up traction with hundreds of protesters bringing Watton Street to a two-hour standstill.
A tractor convoy halted the centre of Werribee on Tuesday night in protest of a proposal to dump contaminated soil at a Wyndham Vale stabling yard.
Community organiser Lisa Heinrichs told Star Weekly the people wanted to send a clear message to the government that the soil is “not welcome in Wyndham”.
“We would most like it for Transurban to say that the proposal is off the table,” Ms Heinrichs said.
“We want them to say that they will take [the contaminated soil] to a permanent fit-for-purpose facility.
“We don’t want it to have it sitting in suburbs, around schools and childcare centres.”
Ms Heinrichs said that Wyndham activists were keeping watch for any activity at the Hobbs Road rail yard site where the group plans to establish a blockade in coming weeks.
“We are doing a lot of work behind the scenes in planning a number of blockades and if the government does not do right by us… there will be more blockades to come,” Ms Heinrichs said.
Wyndham mayor Josh Gilligan said toxic soil would not be trucked into the municipality: “Not now, not ever.”
“When we see this insulting situation where we may be left to deal with this soil, we made it clear as a council that it’s definitely not going to happen,” Cr Gilligan said.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union representative Vic Sharma, who spoke at the rally, said the union held concerns for the health of its members employed at the soon to be opened Wyndham Vale stabling yard.
“The site that the government has identified, which is opening in a few months, will be where a lot of our members will be prospective workers,” Mr Sharma said.
“We are criticising the government’s proposal to put toxic soil on that site where there will be workers, metres from homes and communities.
“We also fail to understand the double handling of this waste. Why do they want to bring 1.5 million tonnes of soil into Wyndham for ‘only a matter of days’?”
Werribee resident Joseph Zanatta said the government had an obligation to use the 82 hectare stabling yard “for the wellbeing of the community”.
“By not informing the whole community of the toxic nature of the soil and possible effects both on health to people, fauna and flora and environment, Tim Pallas [and the state government]…have demonstrated their arrogance and utter contempt for the community,” Mr Zanatta said.
In neighbouring Bacchus Marsh, more than 400 people vented their frustrations at a town meeting last week over a bid by Maddingley Brown Coal to receive the contaminated soil from the Westgate Tunnel project.
At the largely civil, but at times rowdy meeting, representatives from the Wyndham Vale group pledged their support to the Bacchus Marsh community’s case.