A waste company boss says he's not taken aback by the strength of community and council feeling about a $600 million project near Tarago.
Veolia Environmental Services CEO and managing director Richard Kirkman has also backed the technology behind the proposed waste to energy facility at the Woodlawn eco-precinct. The application is before the state government.
"We have been through this process a number of times," he said.
"We've built most of the facilities we have around the world and this two-way discussion with councils and the community is an integral part. The council is there to respond to the community and we respect that.
"The community always has concerns and legitimate questions and it's up to us to answer them."
Three Zoom consultation sessions have been held to date.
Mr Kirkman was responding to Goulburn Mulwaree's recent decision to "totally oppose" any applications for waste to energy plants in its area. It was unconvinced they were safe for human and environmental health and called for stringent assessment and a minimum three-month exhibition of Veolia's environmental impact study.
Councillors were also replying to the State's Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan which identified four zones throughout NSW to locate the technology. Southern Goulburn Mulwaree, around Veolia's precinct, was one.
They also heard from 16 speakers at their September 21 meeting, all of whom opposed Veolia's project. It aims to treat up to 380,000 tonnes of Sydney's feedstock, municipal residual, commercial and industrial waste annually and generate up to 39 megawatts of electricity.
Mr Kirkman said Veolia was not consulted about the State's plan but was unsurprised it identified the eco-precinct given the Minister had previously flagged he wanted the infrastructure and jobs in the regions.
"We have an existing facility and it makes sense to upgrade to this technology," he said.
Residents at the council meeting voiced strong fears for theirs and their children's health and safety.
"...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," Residents Against Tarago Incinerator member, Rod Thiele said.
But Mr Kirkman said Veolia had 65 overseas plants and there were no health and safety impacts on the community or agriculture. Further, NSW EPA regulations governing the technology was the most stringent around the world.
"We have to demonstrate it is safe and that's what the EIS is about," he said.
"...I've worked around these facilities all my life and I lived a few kilometres from one in London. There is no impact on health and agriculture."
The council has requested the EIS include an independent impact assessment of a Staffordshire, England plant that Veolia references in its scoping study.
Mr Kirkman rejected suggestions the facilities were a "quick fix" for Sydney's waste. He argued it was an improvement of current landfilling, had a long-term life and was part of a bigger picture at Woodlawn. This included conversion of a mechanical and biological treatment facility to handle more FoGo (organic waste).
He also moved to dispel fears that fly ash from the incineration process would harm human health. Heavy metals would be removed in the lime treatment process and the treated ash could be used in construction and other applications. The EIS would address this aspect.
The company has come under fire for what residents described as ongoing odour issues at Woodlwan. Several at the recent council meeting questioned how Veolia could be trusted with an additional facility.
The CEO acknowledged the odour complaints but said extreme weather events and rainfall had contributed. Nevertheless, Veolia is investing in new equipment to control the problem. This is being constructed in Germany.
"We're not waiting for that and are looking to fix the odour now," Mr Kirkman said.
He maintained the waste to energy plant would improve this situation as it sucked air into the treatment process.
The EPA has imposed further measures on current site operations.
The council has asked the company to withdraw the application "as a good corporate citizen."
But Mr Kirkman said that wouldn't be happening.
"I believe the technology is better than landfill from a health, safety and environmental perspective and it's a proven technology," he said.
"As a good corporate citizen we should be proposing these facilities in the right location where existing infrastructure is and where we can invest in regional jobs."
Veolia employs some 60 people at Woodlawn. The waste to energy plant is forecast to employ 350 people during construction and 40 once operational.
The EIS will be finished next month and is expected to go on public exhibition in February.
In related news, West Lithgow precinct was identified as another of the four precincts to host the waste to energy projects.
A report to that council's September 27 meeting stated that the government had not consulted with the organisation before the Infrastructure Plan's release. With expected "grave" ramifications, staff recommended that the council request the State to take no further action until it undertook consultation.
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