Businesses sludged

• Oozing waste, dust and a mini river have been coming from a council-owned property. Photo by Steve Grant.

A GROUP of small business owners plagued by flooding, dust and an oozing black substance from an semi-industrial yard next door say they were flabbergasted to find the property was owned by Fremantle council.

Otto Hilhorst and Kevin Oborne represent the owners of four strata workshops on Blamey Place, O’Connor, which back onto an 18,800sqm Jones Street property purchased by the council for $7.8 million in 2014.


It’s earmarked to replace the council’s depot in Knutsford Street when that’s redeveloped for housing, but with that project on hold it’s been leased out to a company servicing mining equipment.

Mr Hilhorst said the new neighbours put a hardstand in which raised the level of the site and turned what had been minor flooding for years into a mini-river.

Mr Oborne, who runs a furniture-manufacturing business, points to an inch-deep flood line through the centre of his workshop which shows water flowing over power chords and narrowly missing his store of table-tops.

Of great concern to Mr Hilhorst is that the waters are bringing with them a thick, tar-like sludge which has oozed over his wall.

“We believe that what has been coming across the wall is polluting our property,” Mr Hilhorst said.

Just metres from his wall are pallets of old 44-gallon drums, several clearly leaking the same, or similar black goop.

Adding to their woes, the mining contractor has also been mixing what appeared to be roadbase in the yard next door which covered them with dust.

“We rely on cross-ventilation to keep the units cool, so we have to be able to open the rear doors, but when this was going on there was absolutely no dust suppression at all…no water whatsoever…so we couldn’t open them when it was operating.

“It was operating all the time,” he said.

He says given the council sets the rules for containing groundwater and operating conditions for businesses, it should be ensuring its tenants were complying with them.

After finding out by chance the council now owned the property, the owners wrote to CEO Philip St John, but Mr Hilhorst said they never heard back. Fremantle council told the Herald it was aware of the issues and was working with the tenant to address them.

It didn’t respond to questions on whether the tenant was being investigated for breaching its operating conditions.


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