Proposed Energy from Waste facility at Eastern Creek

Published on 17 November 2020

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Blacktown City Council has submitted a long list of concerns and objections to the latest proposal to build an ‘Energy-from-Waste’ plant in Western Sydney.

The waste management company Cleanaway is proposing to build the facility on a site at Eastern Creek. The plant aims to generate electricity by burning up to 500,000 tonnes of waste per year.

In a detailed submission to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Council officers stated: “We object to this proposal until all our concerns detailed in Council’s submission are comprehensively addressed.”

Blacktown City Mayor Tony Bleasdale, OAM said; “Council officers have carried out a detailed review of the new incinerator plans and Council also commissioned an independent review of Cleanaway’s environmental impact assessment.

“Council’s submission makes it quite clear that we object to this project in its current form in so many areas.

“The submission raises serious concerns in the areas of air quality, waste water treatment, human health risk assessment, the exact technology to be used, and the visual impact of the facility.

“The proposed plant is located within the Western Sydney Parklands – famously described by a number of NSW Premiers as ‘the lungs of Western Sydney’ and we fear that this development could be the ‘cancer’ of those lungs.”

The Government has specific planning legislation controlling development and land use in the Western Sydney Parklands (WSP).

Council’s independent review of the environmental impact assessment stated: ‘The applicant has not adequately addressed the provisions of the WSP (planning controls) to enable clear demonstration of the beneficial social and economic outcomes to Western Sydney of the proposed development in this location.

‘.. this also raises questions on the suitability of the site and whether the proposed development in the proposed location, within the Western Sydney Parklands is in the public interest.’

The Council officers’ submission will be put to a Blacktown City Council next week for official endorsement.

Specific objections and calls for further information in Blacktown City Council’s submission include:

Air quality and odour assessment

Council’s submission states that Cleanaway’s air quality and odour assessment failed to investigate the impact on important locations.

The submission questions why there is no analysis for the impacts on residential locations in Minchinbury and Erskine Park and why Western Sydney Airport was not considered in the air quality assessment.

The Cleanaway proposal uses air quality monitoring figures from October 2019 to January 2020 as a reference level for local air quality. Bushfires at that time produced drastically increased levels of air pollution.

Council’s submission asks why the Human Health Risk Assessment did not consider a sample period when there is no bushfire smoke impact to determine true background local air quality.

Exact details of the technology

Currently there are dozens of EFW plants in operation around the world using many ‘technology providers’. Cleanaway references 2 plants in its Environmental Impact Assessment (Dublin, Ireland and Filborma, Sweden) but fails to nominate if either of the ‘technologies’ will be used in their proposed facility.

Not identifying the ‘technology provider’ leads to great uncertainty in predicting the exact impacts on the environment, cost and operations of the facility.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Council’s submission points out that Cleanaway’s proposal’s Greenhouse gas emissions assessment is prepared in accordance with the Australian Greenhouse Office standards – 2004. The submission contends that these standards are now outdated.

Waste availability

Council’s submission and the independent review also calls in to question Cleanaway’s claim to be able to access 500,000 tonnes of waste per year:

It bases its waste availability assessment on the potential future ability of Cleanaway to win municipal waste contracts, which would be highly contested by other competitors. The modelling of speculative quantities of eligible waste is based on a range of data sources and includes unpublished data from Cleanaway. This is both confusing and impossible to independently assess.

“This project has been deemed ‘State Significant’ by the NSW Government and as such the Government, not Blacktown City Council, has the final say in the approval process,” Mayor Bleasdale said:

“Council will be guided by the ‘scientific evidence’ and will ensure that the best interests of the health and wellbeing of our residents will be uppermost in Council’s considerations and actions.

 “In addition, we have passed on a number of community submissions that we received to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and requested that the issues raised in these submissions are also carefully considered and addressed.” Said Mayor Bleasdale.

The waste management company Cleanaway is proposing to construct the facility on a site on Wallgrove Road at Eastern Creek, proposing to generate electricity by burning up to 500,000 tonnes of residual residential, commercial and industrial waste.

Plans, including an environmental impact assessment, for the facility have been on public display since 6 October, with the period for public comment on the proposal now closed.

The project is on exhibition (including submissions) at: https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/25896 

Cleanaway’s information site is at:   https://energyandresourcecentre.com.au/   

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