A Hunter environmental expert says a plan to bury contaminated waste at the former Hydro Aluminium Smelter at Kurri Kurri is not the best solution.
University of Newcastle Associate Professor Phillip Geary said he believed Norsk Hydro, the owner of the former smelter site, had chosen the cheapest remediation option.
The Mercury reported yesterday that the company planned to build an underground containment facility at the site, which it would monitor permanently.
There is about 350,000 tonnes of waste, including about 80,000 tonnes of used smelting pot liners, at the site that need a permanent storage solution before the land can be used for residential and business purposes.
Professor Geary, a lecturer in environmental remediation, said the safety of the community would depend on the quality of engineering involved in designing and building the storage cell.
“We don’t know what is going to happen in 50 years,” he said
“It depends on the integrity of materials that line and cap the cell.
“The engineering would have to be proven and it would have to stand the test of time to keep groundwater and rainwater out.”
He said he was not convinced the solution was adequate.
Hydro Aluminium Kurri Kurri managing director Richard Brown hit back at comments from Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon yesterday after Mr Fitzgibbon urged the state government to reject the company’s plan.
Mr Brown said most of the contaminated waste at the site was mixed and could not be reprocessed.
He said Hydro’s proposal was a common industry practice and similar works had been successful at Charlestown Oval in Carrington, near Throsby Creek, and the former Pasminco site at Cockle Creek.
Similar works have also taken place at Wentworth Point, near the Parramatta River in Sydney, and Sydney Olympic Park.
“We have written to Mr Fitzgibbon and offered a briefing on our proposal, but have so far been unsuccessful in speaking with him apart from a short phone call to him shortly after his statement in Federal Parliament,” he said.
“That statement was completely without substance, surprising and alarming to Hydro and most likely to many community members.
“We are unsure why Mr Fitzgibbon is concerned, given that our approach is industry standard which has been used locally and at high-profile sites such as Sydney’s Olympic Park.”
But Professor Geary said waste at Pasminco was lead and zinc, different to the waste at Kurri Kurri.