Victoria's environment department is considering removing waste from tip sites in Port Fairy's East Beach dunes, potentially ruling out plans for protection from a rock wall, despite Moyne Shire Council already buying the rocks.
The sites include a former night soil and a council rubbish tip that have been threatening to erode into the ocean since 2009.
The council has committed to use $1.1 million to extend the rock wall and build a second wall in front of the night soil site after receiving $1.5 million from the state government in 2018, but that work is yet to start.
A Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokesman told The Standard planners were continuing to consider long-term options to make the site safe and prevent impacts on the environment.
"If removing the waste is found to be feasible, it would permanently eliminate the pollution risk and avoid the environmental impacts of building a new rock wall," he said.
"We're confident this is an option the community would like us to investigate before committing to structures on the beach."
The department and council will study the area in coming months to glean a better understanding of the waste buried in the sites and whether it can be removed, while also considering if the rock wall remains the best option.
"This is a complex issue, but the community can have confidence that we have a plan to manage short-term risks," the department spokesman said.
In the meantime the council has bought $300,000 worth of rocks that it intended to build the rock wall with in October 2020.
Council infrastructure and environment director Trev Greenberger said the project was delayed while assessment of any environment impacts from the rock wall were under way and until the council received permits.
Mr Greenberger said the department had informed the council it was considering further options for the site and a decision was expected early next year.
Councillor Jim Doukas asked Mr Greenberger at this week's council meeting if the council could write off the cost of the rocks if another option for the site was agreed on.
"We have asked that question of DELWP and are yet to be responded to," Mr Greenberger said.
The department did not answer this question when asked by The Standard.
The council has also been required to apply for a federal permit to begin work because hooded plovers, protected by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, frequent the dunes.
"Council has applied to the commonwealth government for an exemption to allow the works to occur without impacting on the hooded plovers, and is awaiting a response from the EPBC," Mr Greenberger said.
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