A Tarago district resident is applauding a council decision to back the community in its opposition of a proposed waste to energy facility in the area.
Rod Thiele was one of 16 speakers at Tuesday night's council meeting at which the recently released state government Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan was discussed.
Veolia Environmental Services' proposal for a $600 million plant near Tarago figured highly in the debate. It followed community calls for the council to reject it as strongly as the now scrapped Jerrara Power plan at Bungonia.
Councillors decided to "totally oppose" the project pegged for the Woodlawn eco-precinct. This was to ensure that "environmental and public health outcomes were the number one priority."
On Wednesday, Mayor Bob Kirk said the council would also ask the company "as a good corporate citizen" to withdraw its state significant plan.
He noted that the proposal was permitted with consent in the IN3 heavy industrial zone in which it was located.
"However the council is very concerned that this proposal will not protect the environment and human, animal and biodiversity health," he said.
"If these concerns were able to be adequately addressed, (we) see absolutely no reason why these waste to energy plants could not be built at the source of the majority of the waste, in a heavy industrial zone in Sydney."
On Tuesday, councillors added a raft of resolutions that called on the state government, ministers and the company to apply more stringent conditions to any assessment. These include a review of the chief scientist's November, 2020 study of the technology.
State planners issued environmental requirements, or SEARS, for the proposal on July 2. The council says it has no legal recourse to stop this process but will strongly oppose the project on its merits.
The organisation will also ask that the EIS, incorporating all necessary technical reports, be publicly exhibited for three months to allow adequate time to scrutinise them.
In addition, it wants an independent review of Veolia's stated reference plant in the UK.
In the meantime, Goulburn Mulwaree will seek ACT government and surrounding councils' support in opposing waste to energy facilities.
'On our side in the fight'
Mr Thiele said he and the community were very happy with the outcome.
"We're a little bit down the road with it now (given SEARS has been issued) but the council has listened and reflected the community's position," he said.
"At the same time we acknowledge they are not the decision- making body but we're happy to have them on our side in this fight."
The plan, first flagged in March, has angered much of the community. The Residents Against Tarago Incinerator Facebook group sprang up. This 290-member group will soon become an incorporated body.
Residents strongly voiced their views on Tuesday. Mr Thiele said he and his wife moved to the area from Canberra 10 years ago for its "beautiful surrounds and clean, rural lifestyle to raise children."
"We've worked hard to make this our forever home, a place to raise our kids who can run around free and healthy outside in the fresh air and space," he said.
"But all of this - the home I've built with my family - is at risk now thanks to this plan and Veolia's waste incinerator proposal.
"...It will poison our agriculture, our flora, fauna and rivers, the water we drink from our water tanks our people, my family, my children... There is nothing clean about these facilities."
The plant would burn up to 380,000 tonnes of Sydney's feedstock, municipal residual, commercial and industrial waste annually and generate up to 39 megawatts of electricity. Company CEO Richard Kirkman has defended the technology's safety and described it as the next step in waste management for Australia.
Mr Thiele said the government, in releasing its Infrastructure Plan, had decided "with the stroke of a pen" that his town was an appropriate location for a waste incinerator. It identifies southern Goulburn Mulwaree, around Veolia's bioreactor, as one of four waste to energy precincts throughout NSW.
General manager Warwick Bennett said the council and two others areas the plan had no input into their selection. However it was released after the council called for a firm policy on the plants. It effectively stopped Jerrara Power's project.
Others want the same for Tarago. Resident Paige Davis told councillors she was "vehemently opposed to an industrial toxic waste incinerator being built."
"Our town has already been exposed to more than its fair share of contamination and pollution from industry," she said.
Mrs Davis cited historic lead contamination from the former Woodlawn mine in the rail yards that had rendered one home uninhabitable. She said the EPA had also confirmed 249 odour complaints received in regard to Veolia's bioreactor this year.
"This is an issue that locals have been raising with the EPA for years but has until now fallen on deaf ears," she said.
"How much contamination is too much?
"When the cumulative effect has already been so huge on my town, how can the council in good conscience believe industry when they say nothing bad will come from an industrial waste incinerator?"
'Odour on the nose'
Others, like farmers James Reynolds and Austin McLennan questioned how the company could be trusted when odour issues had been ongoing for many years. Both feared that micro-particles from the facility would affect their agricultural enterprises and families' health.
"The unknowns are just too great," Mr McLennan said.
Several were unconvinced that dioxin levels would be monitored.
But Mr Kirkman has stood by what he described as a "fail safe" technology that Veolia employed in 65 other plants around the world.
In regard to odour, he said the company has implemented more stringent controls under a modified EPA licence.
Residents also listed property values as a key concern but also criticised incineration as an 'easy solution' for Sydney's waste problems.
The matter generated lengthy councillor discussion.
Mayor Bob Kirk said despite the state's policy on waste to energy technology, he wasn't convinced it guaranteed the community's health and safety.
Cr Andrew Banfield described Sydneysiders as "the worst recyclers on the planet."
"We are a community and they (Veolia) needs to respect that," he said.
"They need to find an alternative. Don't dump it with us. It's the wrong thing to do."
After the meeting, Mr Bennett said councillors had sent a strong message to the state government as part of "a bold move."
"Veolia is going through its EIS and we want to be able to challenge it very strongly. We don't want it to exist because we don't believe there is enough evidence anywhere in the world that these facilities are safe for human, animal and plant health."
Mr Kirkman has rejected this claim.
We care about what you think. Have your say in the form below and if you love local news don't forget to subscribe.