Hazardous waste facility near Alice recommended by EPA

24105 Tellus Holdings Chandler 2 OK

 

24105 Tellus Holdings Chandler 1 OKLETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) has recommended approval of Tellus Holdings Ltd’s hazardous waste storage proposal following a rigorous environmental impact assessment.

 

The proposal includes a temporary hazardous waste storage facility, an underground salt mine, a permanent disposal facility for hazardous waste (in the mined out, underground salt caverns), and associated infrastructure such as salt stockpiles, haul roads and access roads.

 

The proposed site is about 120 kilometres south of Alice Springs and 25 kilometres from the nearest community, Titjikala.

 

The NT EPA identified potentially significant environmental impacts and risks associated with the proposal and made 19 recommendations to avoid and mitigate those impacts.

 

The NT EPA’s assessment of Australia’s first national hazardous waste repository has been informed by the operation, regulation and learnings from other deep geological waste repositories internationally as well as ongoing discussions with the WA EPA who are also assessing a similar, but smaller proposal.

 

Key recommendations focus on ensuring transparent, ongoing and rigorous regulatory oversight, including requirements for the public disclosure of any financial assurance or security held in respect of the proposal, as well as public disclosure of independent auditor and process safety oversight reports.

 

This proposal comes with environmental and financial risks to the community and the Northern Territory Government. To address these risks the NT EPA has made recommendations consistent with the proponent’s commitment to ensure appropriate financial assurance provisions are provided upfront to the NT Government over the life of the proposal, should it be approved.

 

A whole-of-project financial assurance would ensure that significant residual environmental impacts and risks are acknowledged, and financial risk to the NT Government is avoided, covering all financial obligations under an appropriate regulatory regime.

 

The NT EPA supports the concept of a deep geological repository that can store and isolate hazardous waste and has identified further work required to demonstrate that the Chandler Facility is the best option for disposing of hazardous waste without unacceptable environmental impacts now or in the future.

 

The NT EPA has provided its assessment report to the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Lauren Moss, for consideration.

 

Dr Paul Vogel

NT EPA Chairman

 

 

UPDATE 5:15 Tuesday

 

The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) says in a media release that it has significant concerns about the proposal to store toxic waste “for geological time (forever)”.

 

The release says whilst ALEC acknowledges the comprehensive conditions recommended by the NT EPA, the capacity of the proponent Tellus to effectively manage the toxic waste in perpetuity is yet to be proven.

 

Concerns over the project include:

 

• Claims of misleading consultation with Titjikala residents.

 

• Types of hazardous waste to be stored including fracking waste.

 

• Long term responsibility of waste management.

 

• Risk of accidents and spillage at the site.

 

• Transportation of toxic chemicals on local roads and railway.

 

• Inadequate regulations to ensure safety and compliance.

 

• Suitability of the site to host toxic waste forever.

 

• No legislated guarantee that nuclear waste won’t be stored at the site in the future.

 

“ALEC has has real concerns around the fact that this type of hazardous waste storage facility has never been attempted in Australia before,” says the release.

 

“There are examples in France and Germany where these kinds of waste storage facilities exist, there are accidents that have happened and there has been a huge environmental and financial cost as a result

 

“We have concerns around the monitoring, compliance and also the enforcement of the conditions of this project. The NT is currently going through an environmental regulatory reform process and we still don’t know whether the regulations will be stringent enough to manage this type of project.

 

“What is needed is a national hazardous waste management policy, dealing with hazardous waste in the best way possible. This means some waste may de destroyed, some of it might be reprocessed and that there would be greater scrutiny over producing the hazardous waste in the first place.”

 

 

 

UPDATE 7am Wednesday

 

Traditional Owners claim they have given no consent for the dump.

 

In a statement they say in community meetings landowners across the region in November reported a high level of concern about the project, and say they have not been properly consulted about its risks.

 

The statement says locals are concerned about the lack of long-term monitoring proposed and the “potential to leach toxins into the Finke river, less than 20km from the site.

 

“It’s a danger to our kids, ourselves, especially our drinking water. It will affect kangaroos, goannas, everything. That’s why we are saying no!” Jennifer Summerfield, Titjikala resident, is quoted in the statement.

 

It says: “Traditional owners argue that information provided by Tellus Holdings Ltd on the hazardous waste storage component of the project was not explained to them during consultation meetings, nor plans for permanent storage and environmental risks.

 

“The company says they will only provide less than 20 jobs for Indigenous people, and they do not have to come from the local communities.”

 

Other traditional owners are quoted:-

 

Vanessa Farrelly, Pertame family member: “[The project] provides almost nothing back to our communities.” said Vanessa Farrelly, Pertame family member.
Anita Ferguson: “They can have their dump somewhere else. They can take the salt but we don’t want the dump and other’s rubbish. It makes it dangerous for us to live here, all the trucks coming through. Within time a truck will have an accident and we will be in trouble.”

 

 

 

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13 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Surprised!
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    @ 4 Interested: Whilst I have never received any benefits from nuclear medicine (knowingly), but I have from technology. However I feel your statement is very generalised and possibly a little unfair.
    Thanks to modern living, the requirement for nuclear medicine is possibly required more these days, so the debate is a bit chicken and eggish. We don’t have a choice but to embrace technology and that is a bit sad in itself.
    In terms of taking ownership. Well, as in so many cases involving pollies, they make the choices and we live / pay for them, in kind, money or under sufferance.
    If people weren’t so greedy in lost of ways, including with technology, perhaps we would pollute less. Alarming stats on the amount of rubbish after NYE in Sydney, but that’s a different article.
    I would like to know what hazardous waste REALLY is, but in my sceptical mind, it doesn’t matter what they tell us, its what they don’t that alarms me.
    After 61 years, nobody can tell me if butter is OK to eat yet and we are discussing the safe dealing with hazardous waste!
    The Japanese are still dealing with Mimamata Disease which is still up there in the top 10 environmental disasters. But we’ll be OK as we don’t have any fish.
    It’s akin to saying something is earthquake proof or tsunami proof.
    Perhaps the major concern here is that we will have a money spinner! So the pollies will most likely start accepting other countries’ hazardous waste (who will check it to see if it complies with the rules, assuming there are some) and use the money to pay off some of our debt.
    But rest assured, the Federal Government will somehow become involved, take their cut and use the facility.

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  2. Posted December 28, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Here’s an interesting quote from an article about the pros and cons of uranium mining in the Northern Territory which was a major topic of debate 40 years ago: “Among the possibilities for ultimate disposal of the wastes are storage in stable geological formations on land, in ice sheets or in the sea bed; and transmutation of the wastes in a nuclear reactor.
    “At present, the most favoured solution is storage in underground salt deposits.
    “As these deposits were formed many millions of years ago, and salt is soluble in water, their very existence is proof of their stability” (Centralian Advocate, June 30, 1977).
    The article concludes: “However, the facts are inescapable. Uranium mining is as safe as, if not safer than, any other form of mining.
    “The nuclear power industry has a safety record which is the envy of all other industries.
    “The problems of nuclear waste disposal are being solved in the same way as scientists have solved other problems of modern technology as they arise.”
    It’s worth noting that the Labor Party was calling for a moratorium on uranium mining to consider all the implications while the CLP was champing at the bit to allow the industry to proceed because of the major financial benefits that would accrue to the Northern Territory’s economy.
    Now where have I heard that one recently? What a gasser!

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  3. Chris Tangey
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Did anyone EVER believe a project costed at hundreds of millions of dollars was actually going to be a salt mine, when you can get salt anywhere for a pittance?
    We’ve all been taken for a ride from day one.
    Question in who else was in on it?

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  4. Paul Parker
    Posted December 15, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Salt is a corrosive, spread of such corrosion is found with increased salt in the air, as those living closer to salt water soon learn.
    We need greater public understanding of effects of salt, how its effects can be multiplied by inappropriate metals or flooding.
    We need clearer explanations of the procedures to reduce, and resolve possible corrosion issues over several thousand years.
    Even several years appears too long for many politicians to consider.

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  5. Interested
    Posted December 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Hazardous waste has to go somewhere – or else feel free to remove yourself from modern medicine, modern technology and every other thing we take for granted.
    Not a person in this forum does not contribute to this waste, yet no one seems to want to take some ownership of it?
    Better off in a remote, geologically stable, underground, purpose built facility than sitting around in hundreds of non secured hospitals and other facilities in the country.

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  6. Rubbish that kills
    Posted December 15, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Hazardous waste kills. Why in our back yard?

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  7. R Henry
    Posted December 14, 2017 at 3:35 am

    Added to which the Howard Government downgraded regulations relating to the transportation of this type of product, as well as radioactive substances.

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  8. Maskat
    Posted December 13, 2017 at 6:13 am

    I agree! Alice and people of Australia wake up!
    This even talks about serious “environmental and financial risks” to the community!
    Who in their right mind would want that rubbish in their backyard? Seriously! It is NOT all about money! You can’t eat that and it won’t buy you health either!
    I cannot believe anyone is still considering this dangerous waste to be dumped near anyone and polluting and estroying precious landscape and environment forever. Wake up, people, and say NO!

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  9. Hal Duell
    Posted December 12, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    “It’s not me! I didn’t do it!” And yet I doubt if there is a household in Alice that doesn’t have at least one product the manufacture of which has contributed to the waste slated for storage.
    It’s called denial. If only we did waste as well as we do denial.

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  10. Ian Sharp
    Posted December 12, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    For those interested in the Tellus proposal: http://www.tellusholdings.com/project_chandler_fact_sheets.html

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  11. Surprised!
    Posted December 12, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    The NT Government has managed to scare off all the Tourists, so perhaps this is their way to make up the deficit? 🙂
    In the 50s the Americans cooked radioactive material into clay balls, crated them and dropped them into the ocean.
    We are all paying for it now. So Alice Springs is destined to become a barren wasteland, but the pollies will be living off their super, in another land, smoking Cuban cigars.

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  12. Torjan Horse
    Posted December 12, 2017 at 9:29 am

    The scale of this project is unprecedented. It has never been tried before in Australia.
    A permanent toxic waste dump is not a solution to hazardous waste treatment in Australia as it will only be taking less than 5% of Australians total toxic waste stockpile.
    This EPA assessment report acknowledges that the company will need to do more site specific investigations to verify the model and ensure that the project is capable of sealing the waste from the biosphere.
    This means that EPA is currently not satisfied that the project will provide an effective seal from the biosphere. If they are not satisfied of this core concern then it is not clear why they have recommended approval.
    The listed wastes that are proposed to be stored in the facility should be mandated in law.
    There needs to be a guarantee from both NT Government and Federal Government that the facility will NEVER accept nuclear waste.
    Central Australia has consistently rejected the possibility of storing nuclear waste and this project will not change that.

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  13. Johannes Venter
    Posted December 11, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Since about 2013 Tellus has been spruiking a salt mine at Tjitjikala, more jobs for local people, improved infrastructure etc.
    Those of us who know the salt business could not believe it. It is not cost effective to mine salt from under the earth.
    We also discovered through studies that Tellus is not into salt, rather into storage of dangerous materials.
    Low and behold in 2017 we now have an article that tells us what Tellus really wants to to do.
    IT IS A HAZARDOUS WASTE FACILITY, right under the noses of an Aboriginal Community and pastoral leases.
    NT residents especially around Alice Springs – wake up!

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