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Fears for family property

Wednesday, 27th January, 2021

Robert and Jodi Pearce from Sunnydale Station are worried about the possible risks a newly proposed waste facility could pose to the environment, such as Pine Creek. The fourth-generation graziers are encouraging Broken Hill to become more engaged with the Tellus Blue Bush Project and to ask more questions about what this could mean for the Far West. PICTURE: Myles Burt Robert and Jodi Pearce from Sunnydale Station are worried about the possible risks a newly proposed waste facility could pose to the environment, such as Pine Creek. The fourth-generation graziers are encouraging Broken Hill to become more engaged with the Tellus Blue Bush Project and to ask more questions about what this could mean for the Far West. PICTURE: Myles Burt

By Myles Burt

Fourth generation graziers, Robert and Jodie Pearce are completely against a new waste facility project.

The Blue Bush project, being run by Tellus, will be located within three kilometres of Sunnydale Station; which the Pearce’s own.

Tellus announced plans last year to build a surface storage site 50kms south of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway. 

Mr Pearce said he was sceptical, considering Tellus only have two sites being Sandy Ridge, 240kms north-west of Kalgoorlie, and the Chandler Facility, 120kms south of Alice Springs; which isn’t yet operational. 

He feels they haven’t had enough time to prove their business and safety models.

“They’ve got no rungs on the board,” Mr Pearce said.

“As we stand here in a waterway, they are no guarantees that’s it’ll end up in this waterway and end up in Pine Creek.

“If they want to do this job, stay over in Western Australia for 20 years, prove themselves to the world, to Australia and then look at it after that.”

Tellus CEO Nate Smith said their Sandy Ridge facility has been operational and accepting waste since November 2019. 

Mr Smith said the Blue Bush storage facility will be Australia’s first geological repository but a model that has been used for several decades both in the United States and Europe and considered the world’s best practise when dealing with hazardous waste. 

“We are an innovative environmental services company that’s focused on cleaning up Australia of hazardous waste, that’s our mission,” Mr Smith said.

“Our whole goal is to do the right thing by the environment and create an economically viable and environmentally sustainable solution.

“That said it is a new business model for the most part in Australia, so granted I expect there to be some concerns and that’s why we’ve slowed down the process.”

General Manager of External Affairs and Approvals Richard Phillips said their Sandy Ridge facility had to undergo strict and ridged assessment by the Commonwealth Government and the WA State Government, expecting the same process with the Blue Bush Project.

“That involves some of Australia’s top and Western Australia’s top scientists, engineers and environmental planning authorities,” Mr Phillips said.

“That alone is very important and has taken up to 10 years to get over the line.

“We’re very confident we’ve got the right people, the right systems and management systems, and the backing from the Australian Government and the state government.”

Mr Pearce said the location for the new facility, being on NSW Crown Land without any Native Title holding seems to be an easy option for a new waste facility. 

Mr Pearce said personally they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars improving their property, battled severe drought and have destocked over the past few years. 

He said the construction of the facility would devalue their pristine lamb fattening property and possibly spoil it if an incident were to occur. 

He worries if a container fail occurred close to Pine Creek or at their train collection point what the clean-up procedures would be.

“We work really hard to keep our little piece of heaven going.

“Who’s going to be responsible for that, how would that impact on the community if it happens on the edge of town and all the other businesses that operate on Kanandah Road?

“No one can categorically say that it will or it won’t, but I just think that the risks are way too high.”

Mr Smith said not only have Tellus gone through a nationwide scout to source transportation providers that have the highest level of health safety and hired internal transport logistics, transportation, and packaging experts. 

Waste must go through a thorough process before being transported or moved.

Mr Phillips said Tellus has not applied for a license to extract water from the W2BH pipeline, preferring to gain a supply of water from an independent ground source. Mr Phillips said that water will be made potable for employee use and operational purposes such as dust suppression for air quality control.

“As a precious water source and potable supply for Broken Hill we don’t think deserve or the right to just come in and tap into that,” Mr Phillips said.

“We have stand on our own two feet and find our own water source and we will be doing that over the next few years.”

Mrs Pearce worried about the type of waste they may be stored there over time depending on future licenses changes. 

Fearing that possible government pressure could lead to a license change which allows exported waste or radioactive waste to be stored there.

“With the right government, the right conditions it’s highly likely that that’s the true purpose of this facility,” she said.

“We’re quite protective of the country, if we don’t protect it no one will.

“When you get past the glossy brochures you know, what does it really look like and what’s it going to mean for the town.”

Mr Smith said no nuclear waste or international waste will be stored at the Blue Bush facility, as it’s a domestic facility to deal with Australia’s hard to manage chemical waste. 

Mr Phillips said the storage of nuclear waste us not feasible in a near surface repository such as Blue Bush and that Australian regulators would step in to disallow it. 

The Pearce’s feel the waste facility would ruin the image of Broken Hill and discourage families to move and establish themselves in town. 

Mr Phillips said the waste facility will be not being taking in toxic waste and only hazardous waste. 

He said by establishing the facility will allow them to initiate a circular economy when the right technology comes along so they can recycle the waste in future.

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