The West Gate Tunnel Project is a much-needed project for Melbourne’s west to provide an alternative to the West Gate Bridge and take thousands of trucks off residential streets.

To build the West Gate Tunnel approximately 1.5 million cubic meters of rock and soil will need to be removed.

Digging up this amount of soil to build the West Gate Tunnels will be a 24/7 operation at our Northern Portal site in Yarraville.

West Gate Tunnel Project soil management diagram

How tunnel rock and soil gets out of the ground

As our Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) dig underground, excavated soil is moved via a 15km covered conveyor system over Somerville Road to our purpose-built shed located on Whitehall Street, Yarraville.

It is then placed in large bins, and excavators load it into covered and lined trucks for safe and secure transport to a disposal facility.

All relevant EPA Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria requirements will be met every step of the way to protect the community and workers from the moment the soil is dug up to when it’s transported and disposed of appropriately.

Safely managing any soil

Given the West Gate Tunnel Project is being built in former industrial areas our extensive testing shows low levels of PFAS will be found in some of the excavated soil.

PFAS, or Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and oil. The Australian Government’s Expert Health Panel for PFAS Report 2018 found there is no consistent evidence that PFAS are harmful to human health.

Despite these findings, the Victorian Government has a strong track record of taking a conservative, safety focused approach to the management of PFAS. When managing soil, our first priority is to make sure protections are in place for the community and workers in line with EPA and WorkSafe requirements.

Safely transporting soil

The trucks that take tunnel soil away from West Gate Tunnel Project worksites are fully covered so there is no dust or soil dropped on the road.

Other safety measures can include hosing down the truck and its wheels before it leaves site, and loading the truck in an enclosed shed.

All trucks are approved by the EPA, fully assessed for roadworthiness and compliance with noise and emission limits and follow approved truck routes to get to a disposal site.

Drivers are fully trained and GPS technology in the trucks will allow driver behaviour to be monitored to ensure truck routes are adhered to.

Workers won’t need to handle any tunnel soil – from the moment it’s dug out by the TBM it’s completely protected and placed into trucks to leave site.

Where does the soil go?

Fully covered, EPA-approved trucks transport the soil from the construction sites to a facility capable of safely managing it.

When the soil arrives at the disposal site, an EPA-accredited environmental auditor will oversee a strict testing and management regime. This will then determine if it will be reused or disposed of safely.

Download the Managing tunnel rock and soil fact sheet - PDF 484 KB