Toxic ash concerns (Latrobe Valley Express)

By Heidi Kraak

A Latrobe Valley environmentalist and an Environmental Justice Australia lawyer have expressed concerns around potentially toxic ash which could be produced by the burning of municipal waste under Australian Paper’s proposed energy from waste project at the Maryvale Mill.

The state and federal governments are contributing to the $7.5 million feasibility study for the project which would generate an alternative source of energy from municipal waste, and Australian Paper recently wrapped up a public submissions process following a six-month period of community consultation.

Latrobe Valley environmentalist Irene Proebsting said while the project could reduce landfill, exhaust gases from burning rubbish could release dangerous chemicals into the air.

“It is not the solution to the waste problem,” she said.

“The Latrobe Valley needs new, alternative, jobs security opportunities for the future that do not add pollution to the Latrobe Valley.”

EJA lawyer Bronya Lipski said ash created by burning municipal waste could be toxic.

“Studies have shown that said waste to energy [facilities] are the largest cause of dioxins in the US, so that is a pretty big concern,” she said.

“My understanding is the way the facility is proposing to remove the dioxins and other toxic materials from the atmosphere is to direct them from the flue into the post-combustion material … and truck it to a landfill site at Hallam,” she said.

“That landfill site has to be adequate enough to protect that community from the health and environmental impacts of toxic post-combustion waste.

“I feel it is an exchange from one negative to another. Burning waste is not the answer to our waste and recycling problems.”

Australian Paper national manager of sustainability and communications Craig Dunn said high temperatures of more than 850 degress would destroy dioxins.

“Any trace amounts of dioxins remaining are then processed in the flue gas treatment stage of the facility,” he said.

“There will be stringent regulatory limits in place to monitor and control dioxins as well as a range of other potential emissions from the facility based on European regulatory requirements. These European limits are established based on safe levels for the environment and human health.”

Mr Dunn said flue gasses from the facility would be captured and treated with sophisticated air cleaning equipment.

“The ash particles and treatment residues from this process would then be sent to a prescribed landfill specifically designed to manage this type of material,” he said.

“Almost all of these contaminants are already present in the municipal waste that has been collected. Concentrating them through the energy from waste process is a better outcome than sending them untreated to decay in a landfill.”

Mr Dunn said the energy from waste combustion process treated 100 per cent of the waste received to generate energy.

“[This will reduce] the waste volumes received by about 80 per cent with the balance left as inert ash which could be mined for metals and then recycled into road base and construction materials to replace sand and gravel,” he said.

“Our plan is to send this ash to landfill until we establish new re-use markets after a rigorous process of testing and approval. Ash from the energy from waste process is commonly used in Europe as a replacement for mined aggregates, supporting additional jobs.”

Published by the Latrobe Valley Express on 17 July 2018

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