CICCC Update—11 October 2001 Meeting

New arrangements for storing benzene at Coode Island

The CICCC meeting on 11 October was advised that Melbourne Ports Corporation has given Terminals a six month extension of their leases east of Mackenzie Road, until July 2004. In spite of Government pronouncements in the past that the Terminals must quit by early 2004 due to contractual commitments to P& O Ports, it is apparent that the situation at Coode Island is still volatile.

Concurrently, on 2 October 2001 EPA issued Terminals a licence amendment requiring immediate improvements to the Vapour Emission Control System (VECS). The carbon bed filters must be changed monthly (rather than annually), emission levels reduced, and the number of tanks reduced. Terminals must submit a proposal for a new VECS system by 19 November 2001, and have it in operation by 1 July 2002.

George Horman, Terminals Victorian Manager, told the meeting that Huntsman Chemicals, the major user of benzene, is contributing a significant sum to improve the benzene emissions. Terminals’ benzene storage capacity at Coode Island will be reduced from 15,000 tonnes to 9,000 tonnes, with its largest tank being taken out of service. The new VECS system will include combustion (as was provided for in Terminals now redundant Works Approval for the BP site), and will be capable of handling vapours from many chemicals stored at the facility.

Timing implications

The demolition of the plant east of Mackenzie Road is anticipated to take 4 months, and the bio-remediation a further 14 months. In order to vacate the site by the new limit of July 2004, benzene storage will cease at the end of 2002. This is six months before the date Marstel hope to come on line—June 2003. EPA confirmed that Marstel had not yet submitted a draft Works Approval application, but were hoping to do it as quickly as possible. Should these timelines remain incompatible, the implication is that there will be a loss of capacity to store the two highest volume products, benzene and propylene oxide, on Coode for many months.

Groundwater and soil contamination

Alex Mikov of ERM Consultants presented the results of ongoing monitoring and treatment of soil and water contamination at Coode Island. Significant contamination has been found, with a mix of chemicals stored by Terminals and others at the Island over the years, and including contaminants introduced when Coode Island was first reclaimed many years ago.

Along the edge of the Maribyrnong River, adjacent to the western tank sites where Terminals will have an ongoing operation, a reduction of contaminants in the groundwater has been achieved in recent months. A “sparge” soil vapour extraction system has been piloted, where high-pressure air is injected into the ground, and return air and contaminants are collected. This will be an ongoing operation.

At the sites to be vacated east of Mackenzie Road, a quite different approach will be taken. Here, after the existing tanks are demolished, the top one and a half metres of soil will be excavated and placed in bio-piles, where biological processes will largely convert the contaminants to safe forms. The treated soil will then be returned to where it came from.

Ambient air quality monitoring

EPA and Terminals advised the Committee that the $30,000 air quality monitoring program to be funded by Terminals had been awarded to the firm Air Water Noise, following consultation with the community and environment groups members on CICCC and the Hazardous Materials Action Group. Four sites (north, south and west of Coode Island) have been selected, and six 24-hour samples will be collected and analysed for a wide range of chemicals. The results will be reported by 31 December 2001.

Emergency communication

Robyn Betts of The office of the Emergency Services Commissioner told the Committee about the development of a community information and alert system for the communities surrounding Coode Island and environs. The four areas of the work are:– community engagement and consultation; identifying and strengthening stakeholder partnerships and collaboration; identifying and assessing current procedures and activities related to public information and community consultation and alerting; and identifying criteria to analyse and evaluate new technology and current alerting systems.

Robyn advised that between now and December there will be a community consultation process, including a questionnaire. CICCC Combined Environment Groups member, Peter Brotherton, expressed appreciation at being informed of the processes being undertaken, but expressed concern that the knowledge and expertise of CICCC members had not been tapped to date, particularly with respect to the content of the questionnaire.

Next meeting of the CICCC

Members of the public are welcome to attend the next meeting of the CICCC on Thursday 8th November 2001 at the Maribyrnong Town Hall on the corner of Hyde and Napier Streets, Footscray at 6.30 pm.

Robin Saunders, Chair CICCC, 16 October 2001