Confident: Weston Aluminium managing director Garbis Simonian outside the Kurri Kurri plant where he proposes running a thermal waste facility.
WESTON Aluminium is confident a proposed high temperature processing facility to deal with some of the state’s most problematic waste will go ahead at Kurri Kurridespite concerns by three NSW Government departments about issues including air emissions and flood impacts.
The Environment Protection Authority and Office of Environment and Heritage were unable to recommend conditions of approval without further information after reviewing Weston Aluminium’s environmental impact statement for a facility 400 metres from a residential area.
Hunter New England Health required a “substantial amount of information” about air quality impacts, including estimated dioxin emissions.
“The level of dioxins emitted appears to be significant, particularly during bypass operations,” Hunter New England Health population health service director Dr David Durrheim said.
Dioxins are identified by the World Health Organisation as highly toxic chemicals that cause cancer and can cause reproductive and development problems in humans. It is one of the so-called “dirty dozen” of environmental pollutants.
An Environment Protection Authority submission noted potential waste types included some likely to contain dioxin-forming materials.
“Burning of hydrocarbon-containing wastes will greatly increase the potential for dioxins/furans formation and such waste must not be burned unless very high levels of consistent process and procedural controls are set in place,” the EPA said.
Weston Aluminium’s proposal to process about 8000 tonnes ofquarantine,pharmaceutical and chemical waste, illicit drugs, paints, solvents and pathogenic substances per year at its Kurri Kurri site follows the closure of Australian aluminium smelters which previously provided the bulk of Weston Aluminium’s material for processing.
The proposalalso responds to the need for thermal treatment facilities in NSW which provide one of the only processing options for some problematic waste.
In their submissions the three government departments requested “robust justification” of estimated air emissions and expressed concern about assessing proposed air, emission and flood impacts because of lack of information.
The Office of Environment and Heritage expressed concern about flood impacts because of the site’s position in a flood area, subject to one in 100 year flood events.
The OEH said the Mitchell Street site experienced flood events greater than the one in 100 year flood event in 2007 and 2015. Information currently available showed there was “very little time for emergency response procedures to be implemented on site” in the event of major flood events, the OEH said.
The environmental impact statement did not consider the risk of stored dangerous goods on neighbouring areas or waterways in the event of severe flooding, the OEH said.
Dr Durrheim recommended Weston Aluminium adopt “a more community-driven approach” to the proposal after strong opposition from community groups.
In a submission to the environmental impact statement,Singleton Shire Healthy Environment Group spokesman Dr Neville Hodkinson said the proposal was for “a high temperature incinerator located in an otherwise residential area”.
In submissions to the Department of Planning, Weston Aluminium, headed by managing director Garbis Simonian, noted the company’s record of innovation and recycling problematic aluminium waste since 1998.
“Weston Aluminium has diverted significant quantities of otherwise by-product residues from landfill disposal, thereby achieving a zero-waste position,” a company submission said.
The company has applied to conduct a trial of high temperature processing of quarantine waste including imported materials that do not meet Australian standards, similar to a 24-month pharmaceutical processing trial that is on-going.
“Domestic processing and disposal options for quarantinewastes within NSW are limited, and regulations require that these wastes be thermally treated by incineration or autoclaving,” the company said.
“There is only one suitable NSW-based facility offering incineration services, and only two facilities with autoclaves.”
Weston Aluminium plant manager Chris McClung said the government department responses to the company’s environmental impact statement were “as expected for this type of project, given the nature of the proposal and the style of operation”.
The company had “a very good environmental track record”, and because it only began aluminium recycling operations in 1998, it was subject to very stringent environmental performance requirements, Mr McClung said.
Monitoring data was available on the company’s website and the company complied with its licence conditions. Weston Aluminium was “extremely confident” about its high temperature facility proposal after completing 15 months of a 24-month trial of pharmaceutical and illicit drug processing with no exceedances, he said.
Dioxin control had been “part of our operations” since the original processing facility opened and “we’ve got a very good track record”, he said.
“We’re happy to respond to the department requests and we want regulators and other bodies to be as active as they can because it results in a better project.”