Bungonia and district residents have sent a loud and clear message to a waste company that "we are not your guinea pigs."
Sixty action group members and residents opposed to Jerrara Power's $608 million proposal at 974 Jerrara Road gathered at Marulan Hall on Monday night to discuss the plan. It followed a similar meeting at Bungonia last Monday, which 40 residents attended.
The Jerrara Action Group and Bungonia Action for Clean Air have formed to oppose the state significant plan on a rural property, some 9km from the Hume Highway, near Bungonia. The groups have 318 and 177 members respectively.
One resident has also mounted a large billboard, emblazoned with 'No waste incinerator' on Jerrara Road.
The company wants to truck in up to 330,000 tonnes of non-recyclable, industrial and commercial waste annually and incinerate it using 'state-of-the-art technology.' Most would come from Sydney and some from the regions. The process is forecast to generate up to 28 megawatts of energy for the grid each year.
Jerrara Power insists there will be no health impacts from the resulting 11,000 tonnes of toxic ash, to be disposed in a specialised Sydney landfill, but residents are unconvinced.
A neighbour became emotional as she said people could not rely on the council and local politicians to fight their case.
"This is in my backyard. We have built up our farm business over 20 years," she said.
"If this goes through I will have to make some tough decisions whether to stay and suffer the health impacts or close the business and go... It is so draining on everyone. I don't want to move from my home and move my family."
An environmental scientist at the meeting said it was a misnomer to call it an energy plant, arguing the power generation was minimal compared to waste volumes.
"(The term) Jerrara Power is being used as a Trojan horse to get into your community," he said.
"It is Jerrara Waste. They say they'll receive 10 per cent of Sydney's waste but it could be higher by the time they get here," he said.
"...It will be a toxic issue...A plant has to be super hot to break down material to (safe levels) but they can't guarantee it will be. Even if it is, it will carry toxic material that will land everywhere - in your water tanks, on your roof...If you open your doors and windows you will get toxins inside your house."
The scientist maintained companies proposed such facilities to take advantage of carbon credits and reap revenue from waste disposal.
Property owner and community health manager, Karl Johnson, cited a 2019 Public Health Association of Australia systematic review of possible health effects of living or working near a waste incinerator.
It identified "a range of adverse health effects, including "significant associations with some neoplasia (abnormal growth), congenital anomalies, infant deaths and miscarriage, but not for other diseases. Ingestion was the dominant exposure pathway for the public. Newer incinerator technologies may reduce exposure." It also concluded elevated cancer risks with some incinerators.
"I don't think Bungonia even wants to think about all this, all because Jerrara Power wants to bring Sydney's waste here," Mr Johnson said.
"The company will say new technologies are not like that. They could be right but give me the evidence that it won't have the same impact."
But Jerrara Power managing director told The Post the company wouldn't contemplate the proposal if it had harmed human health. He said the EPA and NSW Health had to scrutinise the process but he was satisfied it was safe and toxins wouldn't be emitted.
Action group members, Leisha Cox-Barlow and Tenielle Bartley coordinated the meetings and Facebook campaigns. Mrs Cox-Barlow said she was dissatisfied with the company's consultation and level information of information at this stage.
"A solar farm at Marulan is going through at the moment and it will produce five times the energy of this (Jerrara Power's) facility," she said.
"I have told them we will not be their guinea pigs...It is toxic waste, not clean energy and it is at our expense."
However Mr Berkefeld earlier told The Post it was early days in the process, with scoping underway for the NSW planning department. People would have a further say once the DA and EIS were publicly exhibited. The company is conducting community workshops at Bungonia and Marulan this week.
Residents on Monday raised concerns about the associated impact of 104 truck movements daily on Jerrara Road. Resident Karen Cambareri described it as "a disgrace," with soft edges from recent rain, trucks veering to the centre as a result, and a history of fatalities. Quarry trucks also use the thoroughfare.
"It is a deadly road," she said.
Mr Berkefeld said his company would upgrade the road.
Water sources and impacts also rated as key concerns at Monday's meeting. The company is investigating possible water sources.
Mrs Cox-Barlow said given predictions that incinerated particles could travel 30km or more, the proposal had wider ramifications.
"It is not just about Bungonia, but Goulburn and the region," she said.
"...I think the fact that 100 people turned up to these meetings tells you how strongly people feel."
More information about the proposal can be found at https://www.jerrarapower.com.au/
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