A contaminated waste facility 950 metres from Altona homes is expected to start operating as early as March.

Enviropacific Services will operate the Solve plant on the Dow Chemical site in Kororoit Creek Road.

The plant will take contaminated soil from all over Australia and have the capacity to treat “greater than 20 tonnes an hour”.

Enviropacific purchased the business from Innova, which in 2013 successfully appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to overturn Hobsons Bay council’s refusal to grant a permit.

At the time, about 3500 residents signed a petition against the proposal, saying it would make Hobsons Bay the “toxic waste and dust capital of Australia”.

In approving the toxic soil plant, VCAT stated that residents 950 metres from the site were safe because the state government had set the safety buffer at 500 metres.

“If properly managed, fugitive dust from soil storage on the Innova site is unlikely to be an issue beyond its site …and certainly not an issue 950 metres or more away,” VCAT’s ruling said at the time.

Nothing has happened on the site until recently, with bulldozers currently on site clearing the land.

Hobsons Bay Residents Association (HBRA) convenor Jason Price said there were concerns toxins could be released into the air.

“HBRA is extremely frustrated that despite our campaign, significant community opposition and rejection from the council, VCAT approved this dirty facility,” he said.

“I have no doubt they wouldn’t build and operate this facility 950 metres from homes in Kew and Toorak.

“Why should we be the dumping ground to clean and soak up dirty toxic soil from around the country?”

Hobsons Bay deputy mayor Tony Briffa said it was disappointing that Altona was again being used to accommodate a site that “will adversely impact our environment and the potential health and amenity of our residents”.

“I remain disappointed VCAT overturned the council’s rejection of this facility and will do my best to ensure it will be closely monitored to protect the community and our environment as much as possible,” Cr Briffa said.

Enviropacific state manager Jared Roberts this week said the Solve plant was in a heavily industrialised area of Altona and would treat contaminated soil in a fully-enclosed building.

“It will operate under strict state and local government guidelines using the latest high temperature clean-up technology with EPA-approved continuous emissions-monitoring systems in place,” he said.

“Using internationally recognised thermal desorption technology, our facility essentially cooks the soil and destroys contaminants in the soil in a fully enclosed system.

“The process breaks down contaminants into carbon dioxide and water.

“Acidic gases that are formed are neutralised using a slightly alkaline solution to capture the gases in the form of common salt.”