MONASH Council has opened itself to a challenge at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal by refusing to retrospectively approve six industrial chimneys illegally installed by a Mulgrave company.
The decision won applause from residents of Medoro Grove at a council meeting last week, but fears remain that the company, Kirk Group, could appeal to the VCAT.
Resident Frank Gatt says this is just the first stage.
"We're happy that the council did not pass their permit but I don't think the battle is won yet, " he said.
The two-year stoush over the chimney stacks has raged since residents, including Jim Solopitias and Robert Loschiavo, noticed a rise in the number of respiratory problems affecting the street.
Mr Solopitias lives behind the property occupied by Kirk Group and his backyard is directly in the path of fumes released from the chimneys.
Mr Solopitias said that since early 2010 he has suffered worsening health problems affecting his lungs, throat and mouth.
Visits to the doctor and courses of antibiotics made no difference.
Mr Solopitias said that at first he thought he was solely affected, but he later learned he was not alone.
When his parents visited from Dromana, they would always ask whether he could smell a strange odour. His sister, who lives on the other side of Wellington Road, also noticed something strange when she visited.
"She actually feels like she's got a metallic taste in her mouth," Mr Solopitias said.
"That's the kind of taste that we get all the time. My mum can't sleep with the door open because it clogs up her throat. .
"It took a while to put two and two together and think, well maybe it's coming from [the chimneys]."
It was a number of residents who informed Monash Council about the construction of the chimney stacks. The council last week rejected an officers' recommendation to approve the stacks and instead wanted the Environment Protection Authority and Environment Minister Ryan Smith to investigate residents' concerns within three months.
Kirk Group has been in Mulgrave since the mid-90s and provides gravure imaging services, etching images onto metal plates.
"The only reason why [Kirk Group] have actually applied for the permit is because they installed them without obtaining a permit from the council," Mr Solopitias says.
"If we didn't complain the council wouldn't have even known about it."
Neighbour Frank Gatt was shocked at the behaviour of the Kirk Group.
"I can't believe that a company as big as that would wait until we instigated something before they actually applied for a permit," he said. "They were put in illegally because they knew if they had applied for them, they wouldn't have been passed."
The residents have said that the EPA had rejected numerous requests for comprehensive air testing due to cost and lack of equipment.
An EPA spokeswoman said the authority had been unable to confirm any odours emanating from the Kirk Group premises. She would not comment on the nature of the smell or whether testing would be conducted.
Mr Solopitias called on the council to vigorously pursue the matter.
"It has to go as far as possible, even to the point of actually having Kirk relocate."
Kirk Group operations manager Anthony Brown said: "The Kirk Group will continue to work with the EPA and the council to address the residents [concerns]."