Frustrated residents affected by the West Footscray fire are calling for greater transparency and a swifter response by authorities.
Two months after fire tore through an industrial site housing chemical waste, spewing a thick black cloud into the sky and flooding nearby Stony Creek with harmful toxins, no action has been taken against the site’s owner or tenant.
Authorities are still yet to reveal either what caused the fire or a precise description of what materials were being stored on site.
Residents abutting Stony Creek have slammed the slow progress on dealing with run-off in the creek and criticised what they say has been poor communication by Maribyrnong council.
The council, the lead agency in the response effort, has defended its consultation and engagement to date.
Claire Halford, who lives near Cruickshank Park and whose family suffered ill health following the fire, told last week’s council meeting she had felt continuously dismissed over concerns she has attempted to convey since the fire.
Ms Halford said while the council had met behind closed doors with the friends groups associated with Cruickshank Park and Stony Creek, other residents living along the creek corridor had been left in the dark.
“I do feel that we’re not being heard,” she said. “It would be great if the council could hear the frustration of the residents who have felt very unsafe, very unengaged and quite dismissed by the council.
Ms Halford said there had been many promises that authorities would make sure no such incident could occur again, but still no detail as to how that would be ensured.
“The residents have not felt safe and want more engagement by the council now, not some time in the future.”
Maribyrnong planning services director Nigel Higgins said the EPA, Melbourne Water and the council were working on a recovery plan for Stony Creek.
“Extensive community consultation has been carried out since council became responsible for co-ordinating the recovery,” he said.
“We fully understand the concerns of residents and we now are issuing a weekly bulletin through our website to provide the most up-to-date information.”
He said the council is taking advice from EPA as to the risks of potential exposure and advising
Mr Higgins said the council would be calling for community members to nominate for a new stakeholder advisory group.
“We will be inviting all residents to take part in that process,” he said.
The police investigation into the cause of the fire remains ongoing.