Image for A pleading letter to the Derwent Valley Council

*Pic: Limestone Flickr, Matthias Rosenkranz

Dear Derwent Valley Council members and staff,

Please allow me to present some pertinent facts regarding the proposed Maydena limestone quarry, scheduled to be voted on for approval or not at the 17th August 2017 DVC meeting.

We are the nearest residents to the proposed quarry, with our home being just 320 metres from the specific location of the proposed noisy machinery placement for initial quarry mining operations.  As such we are liable to be seriously impacted by the quarry and request that you consider our concerns before approving the venture. The quarry proposal by Jenkins Hire P/L and Stroud P/L

http://epa.tas.gov.au/Documents/Jenkins%20Hire%20Pty%20Ltd%20&%20Stroud%20Pty%20Ltd,%20Hard%20Rock%20Quarry,%20Maydena%20-%20DPEMP.pdf  blatantly contravenes the Quarry Code of Practice for sound and environmental conditions on adjoining properties, located just a few hundred metres from the operational machinery.  This Code of Practise specifies limits on distances from quarry machinery to residences and sensitive use locations of:

From blasting – 1000 metres
From crusher – 750 m
From vibrating screens – 500 m
From any activity – 300 m

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the proposed quarry http://epa.tas.gov.au/assessment-site/Pages/Jenkins-Hire-Pty-Ltd-&-Stroud-Pty-Ltd,-Hard-Rock-Quarry,-Maydena.aspx with minimal restrictive conditions imposed.  The EPA approval mandates no sound, dust or water quality monitoring nearby and provides for no penalties for quarry conditions non-compliance beyond the keeping of a complaints register

We acknowledge and appreciate the input, and agree with local concerned citizens who have submitted formal detailed objections to the proposed quarry on grounds of it adversely affecting local tourism and certainly leading to further road degradation, animal road kill of increasingly rare iconic native fauna, and road congestion (note – just one truck passing position in the 19 km between the outskirts of Maydena and Westerway, and increasing use of cyclists on this road accessing the Dirt Art mountain bike tracks will encourage truck drivers to cross double lines on blind corners to pass them).  Roberts Rd is a potentially serious conflict between heavy trucks and Dirt Art light tourist transport and mountain bikes using the same narrow windy gravel road. 

The proposal has also very minimal employment prospect potential, less than a handful, and is totally unnecessary because limestone for agricultural use is abundantly available in Tasmania at an arguably more economic price, even in the Derwent Valley, than the low grade product to be offered by the proponents of this scheme (just 75% calcium carbonate cf 97% + available elsewhere in the state). That is to say that low local freight costs will be totally offset by its low carbonate content. This is a very important point, not previously mentioned in any reports, and deserves a dedicated cost/benefit presentation to discuss the serious disadvantages of low grade limestone.  Unfortunately there is no scope for that in a brief letter. 

The proposed Maydena limestone quarry will have the lowest grade agricultural limestone anywhere in Australia, so far as I can determine following extensive searching.  The 25% inert material will have serious implications for the acidity neutralising ability, for transport costs and for lime spreading costs.  It can be calculated that the low grade will mean that users will need to have over a 100 km travel distance advantage over alternative higher grade suppliers for the Maydena product to be economic.  To approve this quarry will effectively lock in Derwent Valley farmers to an inferior product for 100 years because it will be hard for any new potential supplier discovering a nearby high grade limestone supply to get a new quarry started. There are abundant reserves of high grade limestone nearby, well away from residences.  It would be a pity to approve the present quarry proposal just because farmers are seriously in need of low cost agricultural lime immediately.

An additional concern is that our personal household water supply, the ANM spring, believed by geologists to originate from Pillingers Creek, will be adversely affected by a quarry.  Another potential zoning conflict is that the quarry will be partially located in a Waterway Protection Area.

This letter simply explains how we are likely to be adversely impacted at our private property site, just across Gordon River Rd from the quarry, via noise and environmental matters.  It also expands on some dubious claims and practices of the quarry proponents to advance the project:-

Question 1: Are we genuine neighbouring residents.  The quarry proponent’s application pretended that we don’t exist, despite 24 years of residence occupancy, and presented our neighbours, 800 – 900 metres away, as the nearest residence to the quarry.  The proponents have since apparently protested to the DVC that we have no legal residence status because the 1993 planning legislation forbids residence occupancy on a General Industrial site.  Our land has no industrial activity, nor is any planned.  The General Industrial zoning is a relic of old ANM days. The fact is though that we bought the old ANM Depot prior to the 1993 legislation and hence are legitimate residence owner/occupiers of our land. Hence any claim that we are illegal occupiers of a house on General Industrial land, is misguided. 

Note that the 1993 act, SECTION 12 specifically says that nothing in the planning scheme will “(d) prevent the use of any building, or works, in the municipal area, for any purpose for which it or they were being lawfully erected, or carried out, immediately before the provision came into effect in relation to the municipal area”

In any case, should there be any minor technical legal complaint against our residence status we would in an instant apply for zone alteration to Rural Resource.  The reason we have not done this already is that with imminent alterations to the State Planning Scheme, it is likely that we will be eligible for reversion to a Rural Resource zoning, at no cost, because of imminent local schedule changes.  Since our occupancy predated the 1993 legislation though, (given royal ascent on 9th November, 1993,) we are legally able to have an onsite residence. Regardless of the legal status of our residence,  we are eligible for sensitive use consideration under the Quarry Code of Practise guidelines, Even if our living here was technically illegal, which it is not,  it wouldn’t mean we are not entitled to peace and quiet through the day.  Nor is there anything anywhere in legislation to allow unlimited noise pollution in a place where residence is technically illegal but day use permitted

Question 2: What are the likely noise levels at our front door if the quarry proposal proceeds?

Answer: - The quarry proponent’s submission included a computer simulated analysis of the anticipated noise levels at various distances from the noisy operational machinery.  While not acknowledging us as real neighbours, they presented graphs to indicate that, even at our residence just 320 metres away from the initial operations, the noise levels would be just 40 – 50 decibels, depending somewhat on weather conditions.

Unfortunately the simulated noise data is seriously flawed because they presented data based on the premise that the operational machinery would be located 450 metres to the south of where it will actually be.  I questioned the proponents about this but so far have had no response, despite 2 Friendly Reminder emails:

Dear Dr Barnes,

Thank you via the Van Diemen consulting company for inviting contact to obtain clarification and further information about the Maydena limestone quarry proposal.

My immediate concern is about the likely noise level at our 20+ year long residence at the old ANM complex just 320 metres from the initial proposed mining location.

I note to start with that the proposal makes no mention of our house as being a long standing nearby residence.  Hence using our nearest neighbour 900 metres from the initial operations as the nearest residence was a significant error.  I note that the EPA sought additional information from the proponents, seeking explanation as to how noise levels at our residence might be contained to no more than 45 db.  The proposed solution was essentially just proper machinery maintenance with possibly some machinery shrouding and bulldozing a physical barrier between machinery and us..

I further note that the Vipac noise level simulation assumes that the noisy machinery would be located well away from Roberts Rd (fig 4, page 245 on the PDF file page numbering) i.e. all the noise projection data is based on the machinery being approximately 450 metres to the south of where it will actually be in the phase 1 extraction operations, likely for the initial 7 - 8 years of the quarry operation.?  This would mean that all the calculated noise level data in the various graphs should be moved to the left of the diagrams 450 metres, and hence the expected noise levels at our front door can be expected to be in the vicinity of 60 - 70 decibels, depending on weather conditions and drill use?

Can you please confirm my calculations, or not, provide proper scientific objective comment on likely noise levels, and provide a realistic expectation of the likely operational noise levels at our house for the next few years.  Presumably as the quarry operations proceed, the noise we are subject to will increase dramatically as a rock wall is developed as the limestone is removed and noise will be reflected back to our property more and more?

It seems inconceivable to us that there are no plans for routine sound monitoring of the quarry operations anywhere nearby, and no mention of any penalty for noise emission non-compliance.

Regards,

Ivo Edwards


It might be noted that because of the logarithmic nature of the sound decibel rating, approximately each 10 decibels increase results in a doubling of perceived sound.  Hence 70 decibels is approximately 6 times louder to a human observer than 45 decibels. 

To the best of current knowledge, therefore, it is likely that we will be subject to a serious noise situation, unlikely to be significantly mitigated by cursory shrouding of machinery and physical barriers between us and the quarry.

We are seriously concerned by the apparent underhand and devious approaches by the quarry proponents to pretend we neighbours don’t exist and to present obviously potential noise pollution as not likely, when proponent predicted noise levels are based on machinery hundreds of metres away from the real mining zone.  We are also concerned by the apparent excessively close relationship between the proponents and EPA. 

This is because a D Oldmeadow from the EPA helped with the proponent’s application, certainly at least by reviewing it prior to submission. That is surely outrageously improper and unethical. i.e. the EPA assessed a submission that they themselves significantly contributed to!  Sounds like Donald Trump judging a beauty competition in which he is a contestant or yet another Tasmanian example of the fox guarding the hen house?

We note from the DVC comments on the various public submissions to the proponents proposal http://www.derwentvalley.tas.gov.au that; “Due to the exemption of the development from the Attenuation Code, Council has no ability to determine whether these impacts are acceptable or otherwise. Council also has no ability to alter, modify or delete conditions imposed by the EPA.”  The Council has explained that the economic viability of the venture is not its concern, that the environmental matters are totally a matter for the EPA and that all road access, safety and access issues are solely a matter for the Department of State growth. Is the DVC then just a puppet rubber stamp for approval, with no scope for imposing its own conditions on the quarry proponents on behalf of its Derwent Valley constituents on this important matter? 

In summary then, we are dismayed that the DVC appears powerless to have any say on EPA and Dept State Growth contentious approval decisions regarding the quarry.  Presumably though, the Council will be involved in any possible quarry condition guideline compliance disputes if they eventuate down the track?

Please reject the quarry application in its present form and location.  We don’t need machinery as loud as a rock concert, about 110 dBA, just 320 metres from our front door, nearly every day and all day, nor does the nearby community who will certainly hear noise at times.  We don’t need operational conditions for the quarry contravening the quarry Code of Practise and providing no penalties for non conformance transgressions of the very lenient and minimal environmental restrictions, and we don’t want more traffic problems on an already compromised road system.

We especially don’t want a dubious venture with a super low grade product jeopardising our chances of obtaining a really first rate high grade limestone supply nearby, but away from residences, caves and tourist operations.

Yours faithfully,

Ivo Edwards

*Ivo Edwards  is an independent scientist and inventor from Maydena.  He lives on a site zoned General Industry but has no industrial activity and plans none.  He is, perversely,  threatened by a potential limestone quarry next door on a site zoned Rural Resource which wants to evict him because it is illegal these days to reside in a General Industrial zone. The quarry proponents apparently want unrestricted rights to pollute his property with noise, dust and contaminated water.