Ratepayers in two South West councils are set to foot the bill to keep a regional waste facility open amid a suspension in operations. The Bunbury Harvey Regional Council has requested up to $1.3 million in support from the City of Bunbury and Shire of Harvey to keep the organisation afloat this financial year. The council is responsible for the Stanley Road Waste Management Facility in Australind, which has stopped taking waste in light of an Environmental Protection Notice issued last year. In her report to the board as part of its annual budget deliberations, finance manager Susan Beeson said the notice directed the council to stop taking commercial waste, with the facility having not accepted council waste since March this year. “With the diversion of both commercial and municipal waste, BHRC is unable to generate the necessary income to support the full cost of current service provision,” she said. “As such BHRC require a member contribution for FY22/23 to financial support the Council, securing the financial sustainability of BHRC.” The contribution request is being made on a 55:45 basis with the Bunbury and Harvey councils respectively due to their previous proportionate usage of the site for their local government waste services. As it currently stands, waste from both councils as well as any waste received by the BHRC’s transfer station is currently being diverted to Cleanaway’s Dardanup landfill site. The BHRC had previously requested up to $424,000 in financial assistance from both local governments to keep the council afloat between February and April this year. In his report to councillors ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Harvey infrastructure services director Rick Lotznicker noted the potential consequences if the Shire did not make another financial contribution. “If the Member Councils were not to provide a contribution in support of BHRC, there is a high likelihood that BHRC will be trading insolvently over the 2022–2023 financial year,” he said. The council had previously resolved to provide operational support to the BHRC through a loan, but it was noted the organisation currently does not have ability to repay a loan. The issues with the site stem from the facility’s historic use of what is known as unlined cells, which do not have barriers to stop decomposing material from leaching into nearby soil and groundwater. In August last year, a mandatory auditor report received by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation found the Stanley Road facility was responsible for the contamination of groundwater around the site with per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS. Initial sampling of surface and groundwater around the facility was completed in March, with preliminary results from the testing described by the BHRC as being “positive”. Additional sampling is expected to be completed by the end of this month, with a Detailed Site Investigation report by the the Mandatory Auditor expected to be finalised by November. DWER required all the unlined cells at the site to be ‘capped’ by June this year to prevent further groundwater contamination, with all new waste disposal cells required to be lined with material to prevent any contamination occurring in the future. Harvey’s 2022/23 budget already has allocated $9.17 million to the Stanley Road facility this financial year to construct lined cells to allow the site to be used again, as well as capping the existing unlined cells and resolving other matters related to the facility. It is estimated the measures will cost a total of $20.38 million once City of Bunbury funding is included. Speaking prior to the meeting, Harvey Shire president Paul Gillett said he hoped the site would have a better setup going into the future. “Given the legacy issues we have, both member councils have a duty to rectify the issues,” he said. “We are bringing the site up to contemporary standards, which means more stringent requirements given where it is located on the Swan Coastal Plain.” Despite the issues, the Department recently renewed the facility’s operations licence until June 2027. BHRC chief executive Peter Keane described the renewal as a “significant milestone”. “This confirms the confidence DWER has in BHRC and the member councils to effectively manage the site into the future,” he said. The site has been operating as a waste facility since 1990.