Questions & Answers
Botany Remediation Projects General Questions & Answers
Chemicals Sale Questions & Answers
In November 2014 Orica Limited announced the sale of its Chemicals business to the Blackstone Group. This Q&A has been prepared in response to a request from community members of the Orica Botany Liaison Committee and relates to Orica at Botany, NSW, Australia.
Which part of Orica at the Botany Industrial Park is to be sold?
The Botany ChlorAlkali Plant (CAP) and associated assets will be sold to the Blackstone Group. Orica is not selling the land that CAP is on to the Blackstone Group. The Blackstone Group will lease the land those assets occupy from Orica.
What happens to the legacy contamination remediation projects?
Orica will retain responsibility for its Botany legacy environmental remediation obligations, including the remediation of the Former ChlorAlkali Plant site, the management of the Hexachlorobenzene waste and implementation of the Botany Groundwater Cleanup Project. Management of these projects will not be changed by the sale. Orica remains committed to meeting its environmental obligations and will continue to comply with all existing regulatory conditions for remediation projects at the site.
How will Orica’s Environment Protection Licence, issued by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), be affected by the sale?
Orica has applied to the EPA to have the CAP plant excised from EPL2148 and placed in a new Environment Protection Licence issued to Blackstone Group. There are no other changes to EPL 2148 as a result of the sale.
Will Orica’s other remediation agreements with the EPA at Botany be affected by the sale?
How will the sale change operation of the Groundwater Treatment Plant (GTP)?
The GTP is currently operated by the CAP team and this arrangement will continue under a service agreement. Orica will continue to set target groundwater levels for the extraction system for the protection of human health and the environment, and to ensure compliance with licence conditions.
Orica will continue to direct the plant operations and to own the GTP assets. Existing staff will become employees of the new operating company ensuring the GTP will continue to be operated by the same people as before. This arrangement will continue the benefits of stronger local manufacturing support resources and the integration of support teams between the CAP and GTP.
Can the new owner make decisions about upgrades to the GTP over time?
Orica will continue to make decisions about any upgrades to the GTP. Orica retains control over the GTP budget. Any upgrades will be done cooperatively under a service agreement.
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Groundwater Cleanup Questions & Answers
Following is a summary of the questions frequently asked of Orica and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) at community meetings over recent years, and the response to each.
If you have further questions please contact us.
Questions Asked of Orica
Questions Asked of the Environment Protection Authority NSW (EPA)
Questions Asked of Orica
Is the groundwater moving northward?
Groundwater naturally flows in a south-westerly direction towards Botany Bay, but historical high-volume groundwater extraction in the 1960s to early 1980s by Davis Gelatine and others to the north and north-west of Botany Industrial Park (BIP) had shifted the groundwater flow in that direction during that time. The 'natural' flow direction towards the south-west was restored by the late 1980s when groundwater extraction was significantly reduced.
Why is Orica allowed to sell treated groundwater?
Orica is licensed by IPART under the Water Industry Competition Act to sell treated water. This reduces the demand on towns water. Approximately 4-5 ML/day is being supplied to neighbouring industrial users. The amount varies depending on how much groundwater needs to be extracted to achieve hydraulic containment, reuse of treated water within the GTP and customer requirements.
Orica's ChlorAlkali Plant and Qenos at BIP and neighbouring Solvay Interox all currently use treated water for industrial applications. Treated water is sold at a discount relative to towns water from Sydney Water Corporation, and covers only a small proportion of the annual GTP operating cost.
What is the status of residential bore water testing?
Orica had concerns that residential bore monitoring was been inadvertently encouraging residential bore water use (which is not permitted within the Groundwater Extraction Exclusion Area declared by the NSW Government). Additionally, community interest – as indicated by the number of residents asking for their bores to be sampled – has declined significantly.
As a result Orica discontinued residential bore monitoring in 2011.
How did mercury get to the Southlands site?
Mercury has been detected in some soil samples at Southlands. The main source of mercury on Southlands is likely to be ash from the former Bunnerong Power Station (which naturally contains mercury) that was used widely in the area as fill.
Historical discharges of waste water into Springvale Drain prior to the operating site being connected to the sewer in 1958 likely resulted in contaminated sediments in Springvale Drain on Southlands. These contaminated sediments were excavated from the drain during remediation works in 2000, and stored pending analysis and disposal next to Nant Street (which is adjacent to Springvale Drain on Southlands). Some mercury contamination of surface soils was subsequently identified when the sediments were removed from the site.
The concentrations of mercury detected in soil at Southlands are all less than 400 mg/kg, which is lower than the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) value of 730 mg/kg for commercial/industrial sites.
Is there contamination at the BIP near Anderson Street?
The BIP area known as the Anderson Street car park (although no longer used as a car park) was formerly used as a short-term drum storage area. Anecdotal information suggests that some of the drummed waste might have contaminated the ground. Groundwater monitoring in the vicinity of this area indicates that the ground is affected by chlorinated hydrocarbons (CHCs), although the origin of the CHCs has not been verified. The BIP containment line captures groundwater from this area.
Where is the off-site mercury groundwater contamination?
Orica has been monitoring specific groundwater monitoring locations since 2006. Mercury contaminated groundwater has been identified in off-site monitoring locations hydraulically downgradient (i.e., to the south west) of the former ChlorAlkali Plant (FCAP) (where mercury was used in the manufacture of chlorine, caustic soda and hydrogen). Mercury concentrations slightly higher than the value in the ANZECC (2000) Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality have been detected in locations south of McPherson Street and also south of Beauchamp Road, but all north of Botany Road.
No mercury contaminated groundwater has been detected reaching any surface water bodies, including Springvale Drain, Floodvale Drain and Penrhyn Estuary.
All of the off-site wells included in the Orica investigations are situated in industrial/commercial areas on Beauchamp Road and McPherson Street, Banksmeadow, within the Groundwater Extraction Exclusion Area where the domestic use of groundwater is prohibited.
The aim of the FCAP remediation work is to reduce long-term groundwater impacts. The remediation works will be managed so that groundwater quality is not adversely affected.
Why does Orica need permanent Foreshore Road safety barriers along the Secondary Containment Line?
Ongoing maintenance of the extraction well infrastructure at the Secondary Containment Area (SCA) is required to ensure continued reliable operation of this essential component of the hydraulic containment system. The safety barriers are needed to ensure protection of people working on the Secondary Containment Line (e.g., undertaking maintenance works or collecting groundwater samples). Roads and Maritime Services (formerly the Roads and Traffic Authority) have specific design requirements for road barriers that must be met.
Questions Asked of the Environment Protection Authority NSW (EPA)
Questions around local drinking water concerns in late 2012
This matter had been resolved and Sydney Water had confirmed there was no contamination of drinking water (June 2013 CLC meeting minutes (PDF 2.6MB))
Mutch Park contamination - scope and responsibilities
The Mutch Park area had historically been an uncontrolled landfill and a substance associated with Orica’s historical operations had been found there in low concentrations, but how it got there was unknown. Orica conducted a Human Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (HHERA) some years ago for Mutch Park and it was provided to the EPA, the landowner and Council. (June 2012 CLC meeting minutes (PDF 84.7KB)).
The EPA advised that sand had historically been extracted at Mutch Park and then the area had been used as a landfill. Groundwater monitoring and human health risk assessments had been conducted some years ago and it was concluded that there was no unacceptable risk for adjacent residents or users of the Park. The risk management focussed on Council workers using groundwater for irrigation purposes. Orica had arranged for the risk assessment to be conducted in good faith as very low concentrations of chlorinated hydrocarbons had been identified at Mutch Park.
There is no record of Orica waste being taken to the landfill at Mutch Park and the contamination there is separate to the chlorinated hydrocarbon groundwater plumes that Orica is addressing under the Botany Groundwater Cleanup Project. Botany Council ceased using bore water from Mutch Park as a precaution. (Sept 2012 CLC meeting minutes (PDF 112.5KB))
The City of Botany Bay (CoBB) had tested bore water and contamination had been identified. CoBB advised that it does not use bore water from Mutch Park. CoBB advised there is further testing at Mutch Park being conducted. (Sept 2013 CLC meeting minutes (PDF 83.9KB)).
Claims that there are massive amounts of contamination (barrels) in the area and the government has been told about this many times
Any claims of contamination should be submitted to the EPA in writing, with appropriate evidence, so that they can be investigated. (Sept 2013 CLC meeting (PDF 83.9KB)).
Action #5 Sept 2013 CLC Meeting - Community members of the CLC to pull together information with concerns about claims of contamination for submission to the EPA.
No responses received as at June 2014.
How can we be assured that the testing is truly independent? And that sufficient data are gathered to assess contaminated sites properly
There are national guidelines for the accreditation of independent contaminated site auditors, and applicants have to sit an exam and be assessed by an independent panel. There is a $150k fine or imprisonment for providing fraudulent data. The independent auditor can also seek further data. Sampling and analyses are done by independent consultants and laboratories, which both care about their reputation. If there is concern about the quality of the data or the conclusions derived on the basis of the data, independent reviews can be carried out (e.g., by the regulator if sites are being regulated, by EPA accredited site auditors, or by other independent consultants).
Origin of groundwater contamination in Collins Street, Pagewood?
The groundwater in that area has been contaminated with chlorinated solvents as a result of third party operations upgradient of Collins Street, not from Orica’s legacy operations.
Chlorinated solvents were widely used historically in manufacturing and engineering businesses. (Sept 2013 CLC meeting minutes (PDF 83.9KB)).
Communication around residential bore water restrictions
NSW Health presented a report on Groundwater Usage in Botany and expressed concern that new residents, renters, non-English speaking groups and people who miss their mail don’t know about the four different groundwater extraction exclusion zones. Information about the exclusion zones is available on the Office of Water website. Government is aware of the need to periodically raise the issue of community awareness around groundwater usage and the EPA is working with NSW Health and the Office of Water to identify ways to improve communications. (March 2012 CLC meeting minutes (PDF 74.6KB))
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HCB Waste Management Questions & Answers
Questions and answers on HCB waste, the application to export HCB waste from Botany to France for safe and permanent destruction at Tredi SA's licensed High Temperature Incineration (HTI) facility, transportation, and community engagement.
HCB waste questions
What is HCB?
HCB (hexachlorobenzene) is a crystalline solid waste by-product. Internationally, it is known and classified as a priority Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). The physical composition of HCB waste makes it particularly challenging to destroy.
HCB has relatively low acute toxicity but prolonged exposure can impact health. HCB may accumulate in an organism (especially with prolonged or frequent exposure), does not easily break down in the environment and is a possible human carcinogen.
HCB is a hazard to human health if it is ingested, or possibly from direct contact with damaged skin. Contact should be avoided.
HCB was produced as a waste by-product in the former solvent and plastic manufacturing plants at Botany Industrial Park (BIP) between 1963 and 1991.
Why does the waste need to be destroyed?
HCB is classified as a priority Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). The Stockholm Convention lists twenty two POP’s, including HCB, that could pose risks to human health and the environment.
It is internationally acknowledged that HCB waste should be destroyed, rather than stockpiled. The Basel Convention regulates the transport of hazardous waste and Stockholm Convention aims for the elimination of all POPs. Australia is a signatory to both Conventions.
Why does the waste need to be exported?
The export of the waste for destruction is consistent with international conventions.
The only commercially developed and proven technology for the destruction of Orica’s HCB waste is High Temperature Incineration (“HTI”).
There are around 20 HTI plants operating in Europe and North America specialised in the disposal of this waste stream. In Australia there is no similar HTI facility and there are currently no proposals to build a HTI plant that would be capable of destroying the HCB.
Continued indefinite storage of the waste until a facility can be sited and built in Australia is inconsistent with Orica’s own principles of dealing with its legacy issues. Nor is continued long term storage at Botany Industrial Park acceptable to the local community.
Orica recognises that it is unsatisfactory to leave it to future generations to find a solution to destroying the HCB waste.
What does the new proposal involve?
Orica is proposing to export 132 tonnes (in an initial shipment) of the HCB waste currently stockpiled at the Botany Industrial Park to France for safe and permanent destruction by Tredi SA at a licensed High Temperature Incinerator (HTI) facility.
Orica is committed to destroying HCB waste in a responsible and environmentally sound manner. Tredi is an international leader in the destruction of industrial waste including HCB waste. Tredi’s High Temperature Incinerator operations have safely and effectively destroyed around 7,500 tonnes of HCB from Europe.
It is expected that once the initial shipment is destroyed further applications would be made to destroy the remainder of the HCB stockpile at the Tredi facility.
Orica is confident that, in partnership with Tredi, it has developed a plan that will ensure the safe transportation and destruction of the HCB stockpiled at Botany.
Is it safe?
Yes, Orica and Tredi have undertaken a comprehensive risk analysis and taken all necessary steps to ensure safe passage and destruction of the HCB waste.
Tredi SA is an international leader in the destruction of industrial wastes and has most recently been involved in the safe destruction of HCB waste from Europe.
Orica selected Tredi after a careful analysis of its capabilities and expertise.
All the waste has been packed in UN approved packaging and shipment will comply with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods regulations.
The proposed shipment of the HCB waste to Tredi’s High Temperature Incinerator will be conducted in compliance with Australia’s international treaty obligations regarding the transportation and destruction of hazardous industrial waste.
How is this proposal different to previous proposals to export the waste?
There are a number of differences to this proposal compared to previous attempts to export the waste for destruction.
Firstly, this application does not require a large charter shipment (2000 – 3000 t) or new storage facilities at the treatment plant. The new application will consist of one 132 tonne shipment, which is at the low end of imported waste volumes to the Tredi facility.
Tredi is a very experienced operator and has operated its HTI plants in France for more than 30 years. In addition, Tredi has recently destroyed a stockpile of HCB imported from Europe.
Orica believes this is the right solution and the right time to safely and effectively manage the destruction of the HCB stockpile in a manner consistent with Australia’s treaty obligations and with the support of the Botany community. This issue has been on the community agenda for three decades, if this proposal is approved, we believe that an enduring and environmentally sustainable solution will be in sight.
What approvals are required to export the HCB waste?
Approvals will be required under the Basel Convention. In Australia compliance is regulated by the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989, and the application will require approval by the Federal Minister for Environment.
Both France and Australia have regulations for international transport and destruction of hazardous wastes, which are based on the Basel Convention.
In Australia, an export application is processed by the Federal Department of Environment (DoE) and requires approval by the Federal Minister for Environment.
In France the regional environmental authority, Directions Régionales de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement (DREAL) is responsible for approval to import and destroy the waste.
In addition, transit permits will be required for ports en route. All countries involved are signatories to the Basel Convention.
An Australian export permit for hazardous waste is only valid for one year, and further applications will be required for future shipments.
Is HTI safe?
High Temperature Incineration conducted by experts at licensed and regulated facilities, such as that operated by Tredi, is a safe, regulated and globally accepted solution to the difficult issue of HCB destruction.
High Temperature Incineration is the well developed and standard technology for the destruction of hazardous wastes, including POPS. Since the early 1990s it has been well regulated and has demonstrated environmentally sound destruction of wastes such as HCB. Today HTI is recognised as Best Available Technology/ Best Environmental Practice for the destruction of POPs in the Stockholm Convention Guidelines.
Tredi has successfully and safely destroyed over 100,000 tonnes of POPs (including HCB) waste. The Tredi plant at Salaise has been operating for over 20 years, treating hazardous wastes.
When will you receive approval?
Orica is currently in the process of seeking regulatory approval for one shipment. We are providing all of the necessary information to all of the relevant authorities.
When will shipments start?
Orica expects the approval process will take some months to complete, with an aim for the first shipments to take place in 2014.
When will the project be completed?
Final project completion will be determined based on statutory approvals, shipping availability and Tredi plant capacities.
How long is it going to take to get rid of the 15,000 tonnes of HCB waste stored at BIP?
The process will take time to complete. The project with Tredi is scheduled to be completed over a number of years.
What happens if the proposal is not approved?
Orica is confident that the application meets all regulatory requirements and is the best solution to permanently destroy the HCB stockpile.
Why can't the HCB waste be treated in Australia?
Orica is committed to destroying HCB waste in a responsible and environmentally sound manner. Orica recognises that a domestic solution could be a better option, but it does not exist. Having conducted an exhaustive examination of possible alternatives, the current proposal is the only available option to deal with the stockpile in the foreseeable future.
In Australia, there is no facility capable of treating the HCB waste, nor the prospect of a suitable facility being available in Australia in the foreseeable future. It makes more sense to destroy the waste in an existing plant, where there are many years operating experience and a proven track record.
Alternative technology for HCB treatment in Australia is not sufficiently developed to constitute a near term solution and also not sufficiently trialled to constitute an acceptably safe solution. Orica will not consider unproven treatment processes or those with a high degree of risk. High Temperature Incineration (HTI) is the safe and environmentally sound solution for the destruction of material such as HCB. This is recognised in the Stockholm Convention’s Best Available Technology and Best Environmental Practice Guidelines.
Developing a domestic solution would take many years and is not necessarily certain while in the northern hemisphere alone there are around 20 HTI plants and this is a tried and proven technology for destroying hazardous waste.
Australia does not generate a large volume of POPs waste similar to HCB and it does not make environmental sense to build a treatment plant to destroy a one-off stockpile that would only require a few years’ of operation. To build a plant in Australia to destroy the HCB, and then demolish is not a good use of resources. In addition, HCB normally needs to be diluted with suitable non-chlorinated waste to approximately a factor of 1 to 10. There isn’t the additional waste in Australia to achieve this.
Suitable plants, such as Tredi, with a long operating history and expertise, and a proven environmental record, represent a better, environmentally sound solution.
Since the review of the need for a large hazardous waste treatment facility by the Australian federal and state governments in the 1970s, Orica has conducted a comprehensive review of options and been in contact with potential treatment plants in Australia, and none have the proven capability to treat Orica’s HCB waste. Orica has also actively supported research efforts to find alternative solutions to HCB incineration for over 20 years. This includes a funded initiative through the University of NSW.
Orica’s application to process the HCB in France is compliant with Australia’s international treaty obligations under the Basel and Stockholm Conventions. The Basel Convention regulates the transboundary movement of waste. This means that under appropriate circumstances, such as in cases where there is no existing facility in a country, waste can be exported to appropriate facilities for treatment. The Stockholm Convention aims for the elimination of all POPs.
Orica’s proposal is the best available option to achieve the safe and permanent disposal of the HCB stockpile.
What is Orica’s response to objections to the proposal to export HCB waste to France for treatment?
Orica has reviewed objections against the proposal and notes that significant incorrect information which has been circulated by some parties. The common themes present in the objections are addressed below.
Claims that a suitable technology to destroy the HCB waste exists in Australia.
This is incorrect. A significant body of rigorous analysis over many years, including the NSW Government’s own Independent Review supports the position that there is no facility in Australia, now or will there be in the foreseeable future, which can deal with the HCB waste in an environmentally sound and a safe manner. In the last year both Robin des Bois and Dr. Ron McDowall have reviewed the situation in Australia and agree that no suitable technology exists. There is no rationale for the development of a new technology alternative to high temperature incineration to address a single HCB stockpile.
Three technologies have been suggested by others:
- Ecologic: The process is not commercially available. Orica’s trials with the process showed it was not capable because of a number of problems including, high dioxin emissions and incomplete treatment of HCB waste during the trials.
- Indirect Thermal Desorption (ITD)/Base Catalysed Dechlorination (BCD): The suggestion to use indirect thermal desorption for concentrated HCB waste is technically not feasible and the BCD process could produce up to five times the quantity of waste oil for further disposal.
- Plascon: This is not suitable for the solid HCB Waste.
Further, there are inherent risks to both personnel safety and the environment with the use of unproven and non-commercial technology.
Claims that Australia should deal with its own waste.
Australia does not have a large chemical manufacturing industry which requires specialised waste disposal such as High Temperature Incineration. Approximately 2,000 tonnes of chlorinated organic hazardous waste generated each year in Australia is disposed of in specialised plants, which are technically capable of destroying the waste in an environmentally sustainable manner. The processes used in these specialised plants are not suitable for the HCB waste in the stockpile. The capability and technology to treat the Orica HCB stockpile does not exist in Australia and does exist in Europe.
Orica supports Australia’s obligations under the Stockholm Convention. Where technologies exist Orica has and it continues to remediate contamination domestically. It recently completed the remediation of 90,000 t of HCB contaminated soil and is currently remediating 45,000 t of organochlorinated pesticide contaminated soil, with technologies available within Australia.
Claims that High Temperature Incineration is not an appropriate disposal technique.
High Temperature Incineration is an approved disposal method under the Stockholm Convention. The technology is well developed, proven in use and heavily regulated in Europe, and is the only technology used for destruction of concentrated POPs wastes that are similar to the HCB waste. Data in one objection is outdated and not relevant to modern well-managed and regulated HTI facilities such as that operated by Trédi. HCB contaminated waste from other countries has been successfully destroyed by Tredi.
The best available technology (BAT) for the destruction/disposal of POPs, including HCB waste, is high temperature incineration. Hazardous waste incineration is listed in the Guidelines on Best Available Techniques and Provisional Guidance on Best Environmental Practices relevant to Article 5 and Annex C of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Waste incineration is also included in the European Commission, Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control, Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for the Waste Treatments Industries, August 2006.
Concern over transport risks
The HCB waste will be transported within the Basel Convention and EU 1013/06 requirements, which both set a very high transport standards compared to regular chemical product transport. Orica’s proposal includes a comprehensive transport plan that details the packaging and procedures for the HCB waste, the below deck stowage during transport and specially designed emergency response equipment present on the vessel. This is expected to achieve an equal or lower level of risk than is achieved when shipping other hazardous materials.
- The interests of the Australian community in ensuring safe and efficient disposal of the HCB waste in facilities that are available and proven in operation, and offer a much lower level of risk than setting up an alternative facility with a developmental technology in Australia.
- Australia’s international obligation to destroy its POPs waste.
What is the track record of the shipping company?
We will use a shipping company with a good record of handling all cargo including hazardous goods and waste, and which operates under required international certifications and standards.
What is the shipping transport route?
The shipments will travel to France via Singapore, the Suez Canal, and Portugal. The necessary transit permits will be sought in accordance with Australia’s international treaty obligations. Shipments will take place under the supervision of the relevant authorities.
How will you transport the HCB from the Botany Industrial Park to the wharves?
The waste will be transported to Port Botany by truck (1.5km).
Appropriate arrangements with authorities will be made in advance with regard to its transportation.
An emergency response plan has been prepared for all aspects of the transport, including road transport in Australia.
How will land transport occur?
The waste will be transported by road in Australia (from the Botany Industrial Park to Port Botany). Orica will work closely with NSW EPA, Emergency Services and WorkCover NSW to ensure that the waste is safely transported to Port Botany.
In France, the HCB will be transported by rail from the Port of Le Havre across France and then for a short distance by road to the Tredi plant at Salaise. Tredi and the rail operator have good transport and emergency response plans in place.
What engagement with the Botany community have you undertaken to date?
Orica has been involved in detailed discussions with the community through the Botany Community Participation & Review Committee (CPRC) on the HCB issue for many years. Orica shares the community view that a safe permanent solution to the HCB issue is required.
Over the years, our discussions with the community have involved talking about potential alternatives for the destruction of HCB waste and Orica has sought feedback from the community on issues of importance to them.
Orica has received feedback about how we should engage with community, community expectations around timing and information sharing and suggestions on relevant stakeholders and independent experts. Orica has taken all feedback into consideration when developing our proposal and our approach to engaging with the community.
Orica will continue to work closely with the Botany and surrounding community and all of our stakeholders to ensure they remain up to date with our plans and progress.
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