Toxic incinerator for Newcastle?
By Edward Johnstone
NEWCASTLE — The city council here may be considering a high-temperature incinerator (HTI) at Kooragang Island, says John Benett of Newcastle Concerned Citizens (NCC).
During 1991, the NSW government was unable to find a single community willing to accept such a facility, designed to handle intractable wastes.
The main problem with the incinerator is the potential escape of dioxins. "Opinion overseas is that the only safe level of exposure to dioxin is zero", Benett told Green Left Weekly. Over the next 10 years, the Clean Air Association expects the level of dioxins in the environment to increase.
HTIs produce dioxins when certain intractable wastes are burned at temperatures of between 400 and 800 degrees Celsius. Although an HTI would normally burn at 1200 to 1300 degrees, the heat must be reduced to around 400 degrees very rapidly at the completion of the process. This is when any unburned dioxins could escape. "The whole process is terrifying", said Benett.
No laboratory in Australia is capable of measuring dioxins in the atmosphere, and in possible cases of contamination samples would be sent to New Zealand for analysis.
NCC says the HTI proposal appears to be linked to a soon-to-be-approved privately run aqueous waste treatment plant on Kooragang. Although this plant is less problematical, the proposed location is of concern, because it seems the company, Cleanaway, plans to propose an adjacent HTI once the aqueous waste plant is established.
"The choice of the site is the hidden agenda", says Benett. Kooragang has excellent access to deep water port facilities on Newcastle Harbour, and this would get around the problem of transporting intractable waste by road.
"We would be a lot happier if the aqueous plant was located elsewhere in Newcastle", Benett says. Currently, any intractable waste incinerator must be owned by the state government, but given the government's privatisation drive, this could easily change.
For information on planned protests against the incinerator, contact John Benett on (049) 676 269.