Stack demolition: call for approval review

Wollongong City Councillor Vicki Curran has called on the government for an urgent review of the Port Kembla Copper stack demolition approval process.

Yesterday the Concerned Residents Group met with representatives from the Environment Protection Authority and Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

After the meeting, Cr Curran and the group still had concerns about the process, which included alleged incomplete testing for asbestos and the presence of mullite, a compound which can cause silicosis when inhaled in high concentrations.

Cr Curran has since written to Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard requesting the demolition, which is scheduled to take place on February 20, be reviewed by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.

Cr Curran stated it was warranted as she said it had been up to the community to raise issues of testing and compliance.

‘‘Yesterday the community was raising concerns about dioxins and the EPA, and Department of Planning had not even looked at assessing nor had they required an assessment of those materials on the site, on the ground or in the stack,’’ Cr Curran said.

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‘‘When the community is raising those concerns to people on a working party who, we are told, have the expertise and knowledge to ensure our safety and environmental safety and long-term health then we have reason to question and make this request.’’

There have also been media reports about a possible court injunction to stop the stack demolition but Cr Curran and Olive Rodwell, from the Concerned Residents Group, said they had no plans to commence legal proceedings.

Mrs Rodwell was also at Thursday’s meeting and raised concerns about mullite, which is used to make the ceramic part of vehicle spark plugs.

She said she did not feel safe about the demolition.

‘‘At this stage this does not appear to be the right thing to do, to blow it down with explosives,’’ Mrs Rodwell said.

‘‘I can’t see that it could safely be brought down.’’

A Department of Planning and Infrastructure spokesman said suggestions the public were at risk from the stack’s demolition were ‘‘unfounded’’.

‘‘In assessing the demolition plans, public safety has been the Department of Planning and  Infrastructure’s paramount consideration,’’ the spokesman said.

He said WorkCover and EPA tests ‘‘found there is no asbestos present in the stack’’.

‘‘Earlier testing by Port Kembla Copper had identified asbestos in sealing materials within the  stack, but those materials have now been removed,’’ he said.

He said mullite, commonly used when making fireproof bricks, was identified in samples tested by the EPA.

‘‘The department is confident the mullite does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public – particularly due to the best practice techniques being used to manage dust emissions from the demolition site,’’ the spokesman said. 

Port Kembla stack. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Port Kembla stack. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

While not stating whether Mr Hazzard would refer the matter to the chief scientist, the spokesman said the demolition of the stack is scheduled to go ahead on February 20.


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