THE State Government could be forced to keep the controversial Brookdale waste treatment plant open next year because alternative facilities will not be completed on time.
Brookdale is due to close at the end of December but a new $7 million plant being built by the Water Corporation to treat biological waste will not be ready until late February or early March next year.
The lack of alternative facilities is causing disquiet among business, which faces higher costs and potentially higher risks as a result of the Brookdale closure.
“Industry will find solutions but they won’t be cheap or convenient,” was how one executive summed up the situation.
Most of the State’s controlled industrial waste will have to be transported to Kalgoorlie, where private company Total Waste Management operates a treatment plant.
Martin Taylor, executive officer of the Kwinana Industries Council, said transporting high volumes of hazardous waste to Kalgoorlie raised two issues.
“There’s certainly an issue of cost,” he told WA Business News.
“The bigger issue is environmental risk. The dominant risk is the risk of an accident during transport, not the treatment at the facility.
“Hauling it from here to Kalgoorlie obviously increases that risk.”
Mr Taylor said there was also a risk that waste generators may be forced to store their own hazardous waste.
“It’s certainly a possibility because the Kalgoorlie plant was never designed to handle the current volume of waste,” he said.
Another possibility is that the volume of hazardous waste transported interstate will have to increase.
TWM believes it will be able to manage the expected volume of controlled waste but, like other industry participants, has limited data on exactly how much waste will need to be treated.
“Notwithstanding the limited information made publicly available regarding generator volumes, it is our understanding TWM’s facilities at Welshpool and Kalgoorlie will be in a position to handle the waste volumes post 31 December,” TWM general manager Nick Badyk said.
He said TWM was expanding the capacity of its evaporation ponds at Kalgoorlie.
This would enable the company to better manage existing volumes and was unrelated to the expected higher volumes.
Mr Badyk added that TWM was about to start transporting waste by train, after negotiating access to suitably priced containers and freight rates.
“We will see a reduction in the road transport of industrial waste to Kalgoorlie,” he said.
TWM is a joint venture between Queensland company Transpacific Industries and French-owned company Collex.
Interestingly, Transpacific is seeking to strengthen its market position across Australia ahead of a rumoured share market float.
Last month, Transpacific lodged an on-market bid for the loss-making Environmental Recovery Services.
The new septage and grease trap plant being built by the Water Corporation at Woodman Point is designed to handle up to 35 million litres of liquid waste each year.
The Department of Environment is assessing alternative options for treating the waste until Woodman Point is ready.
“It’s likely that some of the waste would have to go to Albany,” a spokesman for Environment Minister Judy Edwards said.
“That would incur considerable extra costs.
“Realistically keeping Brookdale open is a potential option, but a decision hasn’t been made.”
As well as patching up the short-term problem of biological waste treatment, the Government is trying to find a solution to the long-term problem of hazardous wastes.
It has established a consultative committee, co-chaired by traditional adversaries, environmental campaigner Lee Bell and Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive Mary Askey.
The committee’s challenging brief is to define criteria for judging suitable technologies and suitable sites for hazardous waste treatment.
Ms Askey said the consultative process would most likely take more than a year, meaning that industry will have to get used to coping with the existing facilities.
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