Waste Sites

19 Nov 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Urban Development and Planning a question on the subject of waste sites.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Honourable members may be aware that the government has approved expansion of both the Inkerman and Dublin landfills, one of which is to accept additional low level contaminated waste, while the Dublin landfill is to accept high level waste, which was approved through the major development process. My questions for the minister are:

1. What were the views of the Wakefield Regional Council?

2. Did the EPA identify threats to human health or the environment in its assessments?

3. Where is the demand for the expansion of the two sites, particularly as the waste industry view is that current volumes make it inefficient to justify both sites?

4. Can the minister rule out the use of either site for the remediation of contaminated soil from what was formerly known as the Marjorie Jackson-Nelson hospital site?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Small Business) (14:37): In relation to the last question: how extraordinary. One of the problems we have had in this state is that very few sites have been able to take high level waste. High level waste has been generated for many years, so we need a site. Why would one rule out using a landfill specifically designed to deal with high level waste? Why should one rule out using it for that purpose because, potentially, soil from one particular source might be taken there? Of course I would not rule it out.

The opposition has tried before to suggest that somehow or other this landfill at Dublin is licensed purely for that purpose. I thought I had dealt with that in this parliament some time back. To suggest that the only reason one would assess an application from a private company that is running a landfill is that its one particular purpose is to enable it to deal with contaminated waste is really a nonsense, given the likely volumes involved.

The fact is that this state needs a facility to deal with contaminated soil. Fortunately, under the environmental protection laws that we have these days we do not generate the level of waste that we used to, but legislation has been passed by this government—I think it was under my colleague—about contaminated sites, because this government is trying to catch up on many of the bad practices of 100 years or more, where there are contaminated sites.

With respect to these landfill sites, so I am told, it is not just a matter of storing there, because it can be treated in various ways. Bioremediation can reduce the level of contaminants, or it can be reduced to an acceptable level of standard through dilution of that material with clean soil and used for such purposes as highway construction and the like. I do not claim to be an expert in that area; it is really up to the EPA and others. What these facilities can do, as I understand it, is enable some sort of remediation of at least a portion of contaminated soil that goes through there.

In relation to the first part of the question, there are applications from the two facilities (one at Inkerman and one at Dublin), and the government has considered both of those on their merits. My understanding is that the council did not support that. I would have to check it, but that is probably not surprising. I would think that, no matter where we put facilities dealing with contaminated waste, the local council would express some concerns about it. Presumably, they would rather it was located somewhere else, and one perhaps can understand that. Nonetheless, as a state government, we have to act in the interests of the state and make sure that we have a suitable facility for dealing with this contaminated soil.

I think the council should understand that contaminated soil is present in plenty of sites around Adelaide. For example, I am aware that there is some contaminated soil near primary schools, and so on, in various parts of the city due to former industrial activity. Contaminated soil is not unique to the railyards at Adelaide, and there are plenty of other sites around the city. Clearly, we need a site where that contaminated soil can be suitably treated and, hopefully, as much of it as possible remediated to be used for other purposes.

As for economic viability, the honourable member suggested that there was room for only one. Well, in the end, the market will determine that. I would not have thought that it is really up to the government to pick winners in relation to this matter. The government receives applications in relation to licensing these matters, and they are considered on their merits. However, in the end, if there is room for only one, that is really up to the market to determine. What the government is concerned about is that, if any facility is licensed, the rules pertaining to it—the environmental conditions that apply to it—should be appropriate and world's best practice, and that they should be adhered to by the operators of the dump and monitored by the EPA.