More than 350,000 tonnes of toxic materials including spent pot-lining will be stored at Loxford in an on-site contamination cell, as part of Norsk Hydro’s planned remediation process.
Managing director Richard Brown met with members of the newly-formed community reference group on Thursday to announce the plans, which will be put to the Department of Planning along with the preliminary environmental assessment.
Mr. Brown said that the decision to make the new purpose-built containment cell was based on an assessment of the timeframe, legacy and risk as well as the environmental outcome of the site and economic viability.
Hydro would retain ownership of the cell and be involved though all stages of design and installation, to ensure long-term performance.
The estimated cost of building the cell is between $50 and $100 million and is expect to take up to five years to be completed.
Alternative options considered for dealing with the waste included upgrading the sites existing capped waste stockpile also known as ‘Mount Alcan’ or offsite disposal.
Mr. Brown said that the option of offsite disposal was not a responsible one, given the company’s position to maintain long-term, “lifelong” accountability for the materials.
“This is not the cheapest option but it is a more economically viable one,” he said.
“We want to get on with work and timeframe certainty is an important focus.”
Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon, said the decision “flies in the face of industry practice – both international and local” – and that the NSW Government must immediately reject the proposal.
“No assessment process is capable of re-assuring local residents that the proposed savings-measure poses no threat to human health and the local environment,” he said.
“Reprocessing will be more expensive but it is the only way of safely disposing of the large amount of waste the company is holding.”
Mr. Brown said that the proposed containment cell is a common industry practice and would be built to the highest standard.
“The majority of contaminated waste on-site is mixed and cannot be reprocessed,” he said.
“Hydro’s proposed option is common industry practice globally and locally, and is currently in place at sites such as Charlestown Oval, Carrington adjacent to Throsby Creek, the former Pasminco site at Cockle Creek, Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush Bay, and at Wentworth Point on the Parramatta River.
“Our proposed option will need to be assessed by the relevant government agencies including the NSW Environmental Protection Authority, and when built to a highly engineered standard, would be maintained in perpetuity.”
Long-term remediation plans for the smelter site include residential and industrial land, as well as around 800 hectares to be set aside for biodiversity conservation.
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