By Peter Hannam
A NSW upper house inquiry has opposed approval of a giant waste-to-energy incinerator planned for Sydney’s west, agreeing that community engagement by its proponent did not come within “a bull’s roar” of best practice.
The $700 million Next Generation project proposed by Dial-A-Dump Industries at a site at Eastern Creek is seeking to burn as much as 1.105 million tonnes of waste a year.
The firm’s amended plan attracted 949 public submissions against the project and just two in favour, the inquiry’s report, Energy From Waste Technology, noted.
The inquiry noted doubts by the NSW Environment Protection Authority of the “thoroughness and veracity” of the human risk assessment.
The facility – located within 800 metres of homes and near schools and sporting amenities – would release emissions including small particulate matter and a range of chemicals from sulfur dioxide to chlorine and heavy metals.
The committee said it agreed with a comment by James Whelan, a researcher for Environmental Justice Australia, that public consultation by the company had not been “within a bull’s roar” of best practice, and was “pretty close” to worst practice.
As a result of the concerns, the inquiry recommended the Berejiklian government reject the proposal “subject to the current assessment process being conducted by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment”.
Fairfax Media sought comment from Dial-A-Dump.
The Greens, who contributed a dissenting statement to the report, said the inquiry should have gone further and unambiguously opposed the project. It should also have recommended a 15-kilometre exclusion zone for such facilities from residential areas.
“Burning waste is no solution at all for the current waste crisis we face,” Mehreen Faruqi, the Greens’ environment spokeswoman, said. “There should be a moratorium on new facilities while waste avoidance, reuse and recycling programs are expanded to their full potential.”
In a separate dissenting statement, Matthew Mason-Cox, a Liberal upper house member, said the inquiry’s majority opposition to the project was “a political decision”, and it was not appropriate “to pre-empt or second guess” the final outcome of the Planning and Assessment Commission (now renamed the Independent Planning Commission.)
The inquiry, set up in April to examine waste-to-energy technology, was later expanded to include the prevalence and scale of illegal dumping across NSW.
Among its recommendations was that the government establish an independent inquiry to investigate the operation, regulation and approvals of the Mangrove Mountain Landfill site, north of Sydney.
Residents have complained about the leak of contaminated water from the site into rivers.
The EPA should also urgently investigate and implement alternative solutions for waste following the ban by China on imports of recyclable plastics, the inquiry said. It should also allocate more money to crack down on illegal dumping.
The state has about 23 energy-from-waste projects, most of which are small with a capacity of less than 10 megawatts.
Published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 March 2018