By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Food company Marvel Packers has joined the scores of complainants about dust from the O’Grady Road, Hallam, area – but it’s not pointing the blame at the oft-suspected soilworks.
Marvel owner Paul McBeth blames the Casey council-managed dirt road itself – which kicks up fine grey dust as each of hundreds of trucks rumble past every day.
The powder has to be cleaned from machinery inside Marvel’s factory every week, Mr McBeth said.
But, most seriously, each truck creates a thick cloud that hovers and obscures sightlines for traffic exiting Marvel onto O’Grady Road.
Mr McBeth said he worries for the safety of staff, customers and suppliers using the road.
“My staff and I literally take unacceptable risks driving to and from work each day,” he said.
“Oncoming vehicles are often just a metre away before drivers can see each other.
“Add to this the fact the road is often so pot-holed that traffic is forced onto the wrong side of the road.
“It is only a matter of time until a disastrous truck versus car impact occurs.”
One of his staff, Kalaiselvan Saparathinam, walks to work along O’Grady Road from Hallam train station.
Mr Saparathinam has to be wary of oncoming traffic that can’t see him as he walks through the dust clouds.
Marvel Packers recorded footage of plumes of dust kicking up behind a passing truck on 31 January – just a day after the council had applied a dust suppressant to the road.
Casey council has no plans to seal the road which was costed at $14.8 million five years ago and rejected by property owners.
The project would include $3.8 million for acquiring property to divert the road in order to protect the protected Dwarf galaxias fish in the adjoining road drain.
According to Mr McBeth, the drain is “putrid” and filled with illegally dumped rubbish and a Galaxias predator, the Eastern gambusia.
Mr McBeth said he and adjoining lot owners would contribute to a less costly solution – to move the fish to a suitable nearby habitat and not divert the road.
He said sealing the road would benefit the wider community by reducing the dust problem.
“There is a common sense solution that may well save a life.
“I have no idea why council will not fix this death trap for the benefit of the road users and the surrounding community.”
Casey city presentation manager David Richardson said the council would continue to manage dust on the road in coming months but didn’t plan to seal the road.
“Roads like O’Grady Road that service commercial properties are typically built by developers through planning permit conditions.
“The developer determines if and when the road is built.”
Mr Richardson said any development had to strictly comply with federal legislation dictating how the protected galaxias were managed.
Environment Protection Agency Victoria (EPA) is monitoring dust levels in the O’Grady Road area after years of dust complaints from neighbouring residents and businesses.
EPA southern metro manager Marleen Mathias stated the organisation had provided verbal advice to Casey council to suppress dust on its road.
“EPA understands that (the) council do not have any plans to seal the road.”
The EPA study is expected to finish in February, with data sent off for analysis to help determine further action, Ms Mathias said.
On 22 December, the EPA sent letters to three businesses – including soil yards – to implement dust mitigation measures and create dust management plans.
Ms Mathias said one business had provided a dust management plan.
“EPA will follow up with the other businesses to confirm whether dust mitigation measures have been implemented.
“If dust is found to be an issue at these sites, these measures could be formalised in EPA notices that would be issued to businesses.”