An anti-toxic waste group and environmental lawyers are calling on Victoria’s environmental watchdog to reject a proposed waste to energy facility at Lara, near Geelong.
By burning red-bin waste the project will create toxic air emissions which are very difficult to control and which are linked to a suite of serious human health impacts such as cancer, miscarriage and respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
Prospect Hill International Pty Ltd proposes to incinerate 400,000 tonnes of waste per year at 164-200 McManus Road, Lara.
Lawyers for Environmental Justice Australia, acting on behalf of the Anti-Toxic Waste Alliance, have prepared a submission to EPA Victoria saying the proposed facility should be refused as it poses an unacceptable risk of harm to human health and the environment.
The Anti-Toxic Waste Alliance includes 39 community groups and organisations from across greater Melbourne’s suburbs who are concerned about the risks posed by inappropriately managed landfills, waste storage, recycling premises and other sources of environmental contamination.
The proposed facility would be located within 1km of residential areas in Lara and there are nine childcare centres, seven schools and three aged care residences within 5km of the facility.
The facility will generate considerable carbon emissions due to the burning of plastics, contributing to an increase in Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Anti-Toxic Waste Alliance President Colleen Hartland said:
“No matter where we come from, the colour of our skin, or how much we earn, we all need clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink and a safe, healthy environment.
Toxic pollution – in the air we breathe, the water we drink or the soil that grows our food – can lead to a lifetime of health complications. This impacts kids in the playground, shoppers in the high street and old people in the park.
The scientific links between pollution from waste incinerators and detrimental impacts on human health are well established, so EPA Victoria has an obligation to refuse this application.
This company’s claims about the environmental impact of this proposal are fundamentally misleading and the EPA should be sceptical.”
Lawyer Elke Nicholson said:
“It’s not good enough that communities in regional areas are burdened with hazardous waste facilities.
Too often, the toxic toll of pollution disproportionately burdens communities who are excluded from decision making about the location of toxic waste sites and hazards, and who don’t have the means to challenge corporate polluters.
“Lara residents want to breathe clean air. The EPA has a critical responsibility to protect the health of all Victorians and prevent toxic pollution from harming our environment and killing people.
Burning plastic has no part in a carbon neutral future. The company’s claims that the facility contributes to a circular economy are overstated and do not account for Victoria’s transition away from fossil fuels.
This company has not committed to publicly report on their emissions data in real time. This means the Lara community will be left in the dark about the chemical emissions going into their air, soil and groundwater.
Long-term exposure to even low levels of air pollutants can have serious lifelong health impacts. So even waste-to energy facilities built to the best available international standards may contribute to cumulative pollution for which there is no safe level of exposure.
Approving waste incineration facilities locks Victoria into a future of burning fossil fuels as plastics, threatens the community with toxic air contamination, and undermines public efforts to reduce waste production.”
The applicant proposes to incinerate mixed commercial, industrial and municipal waste, including organics, metals, and plastics.
The facility will produce pollutants such as Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Particulate Matter 10 (PM10) and 2.5 (PM2.5), Ozone, Ammonia, Hydrogen Chloride, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. It will also produce metals and semi-metals such as Hexavalent chromium, cadmium and mercury. For several of these chemicals, there is no safe exposure limit.
About 20 per cent of the waste will remain as toxic ash that will need to be received by landfill if there is no market for it, such as in a road base construction.
Data prepared by the Centre for Air Pollution, Energy and Health Research shows that Lara’s average annual fine particle pollution level (PM2.5) per cubic metre of air sits around 7.9-8 while the World Health Organisation’s safe level recommendation is 5.
Census data collected in 2021 mapped to the City of Greater Geelong shows several areas surrounding the Prospect Hill proposal have an asthma rate of 9-13% of the population.
For more information visit: Stop the Waste-to-Energy Incinerator at Lara – Geelong Sustainability