State government to investigate rubbish dump fire (Queensland Times)

AIR pollution created by the New Chum fire can't be detected by the State Government's monitoring equipment, an expert says.

The State Government has launched an investigation after huge plumes of smoke were seen across Ipswich on Sunday when a cell at the New Chum waste facility caught fire.

The facility's operator, Cleanaway, says the material was largely wood and building materials that would not create hazardous smoke.

But Dr James Whelan, an air quality expert with Environmental Justice Australia, says even if there was increased harmful air pollution, the monitoring stations wouldn't have picked it up.

He said the stations didn't monitor for fine particle pollution known as PM2.5, the most dangerous type of air pollution.

"This fire highlights the need to expand the air pollution monitoring network in south-east Queensland and other parts of the state and to ensure monitoring data is accessible to community members," Dr Whelan said.

"The DEHP website allows only limited access to monitoring data.

"The company and Queensland Government have a responsibility to inform the community of the health risks and impacts of this facility and the recent fire.

"Communities have a right to know what they are breathing at all times, to receive health warnings immediately when harmful pollution levels are detected and to full disclosure by the company and government agencies."

The Environment Department says it is investigating the incident with the cooperation of Cleanaway but initial investigations found Cleanaway was compliant with air monitoring conditions.

A spokesperson for Cleanaway said the company was confident no plastics or hazardous material had been burned in the fire.

"The industry is heavily regulated and frequently audited by both the council and the State Government," the spokesperson said.

"When material is brought in to be placed in the cell, it is checked to ensure it's compliant with the regulation which governs the type of material that can be placed in that cell."

The spokesperson said examples of material in that cell included waste soils, wood, paper and general building materials such as bricks and plasterboard.

The fire began burning on Sunday about 8am.

Brad Barnes, station officer at Bundamba Station, said his crews left the scene in the hands of Cleanaway management about midday.

Mr Barnes described the fire as "clean burning".

The Environment Department did not receive any complaints via the Pollution Hotline in relation to the fire.

By Helen Spelitis

This story was published by the Queensland Times on 4 July 2017

 

 


Sign up to our eBulletin