Tasmania’s community watchdog on toxics issues has serious doubts with the secrecy over the proposed toxic waste dump at Copping.
Jennie Herrera from the Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network (TPEHN) today said:
“The Southern Waste Services consortium that want to build this dump has already failed due process with Council discussions on the proposal allegedly happening behind closed doors.”
“The revelations in Poppy Lopatniuk’s recently released book ‘Tomorrow’s Children’, (TT here) have already shown how Clarence Council, one of the consortium members, failed to regulate and monitor the former waste dump at Howrah.”
“Poppy Lopatniuk’s investigation into the serious health concerns and cancer cluster around the old landfill at Howrah has exposed governments’ inability to take the significant and enduring health impacts on the community from toxic waste seriously.”
“Former residents at Howrah were reassured at the time that the Howrah landfill was a controlled tip site but subsequently this was proved incorrect.”
“The EPA and the Public and Environmental Health Service have failed to effectively monitor and investigate public health impacts from numerous known toxic waste sites throughout Tasmania.”
“There are well over 170 unmonitored former landfill sites in Tasmania.”
“The community have a right to know which companies intend to use the toxic dump, how they currently manage their waste and what options are available for disposal.”
“TPEHN is calling on all the Councils involved to publicly release all available information including feasibility studies and environmental impact statements for public scrutiny.”
“Poppy Lopatniuk’s book shows that the community cannot trust the reassurances of public bodies. So why should we trust them with this proposal for Copping, especially when proper consultation has been lacking?”
• What Southern Waste Solutions says: Controlled waste facility at the Copping landfill site
Southern Waste Solutions has held a site visit and media briefing at its Copping landfill facility today,
regarding its proposal to construct a controlled waste disposal cell at the site.
Southern Waste Solutions CEO Christine Bell said should the proposal proceed, waste accepted at
the site would undergo prior-approval by the environmental regulator to ensure it was suitable and
compatible for disposal at the facility.
“Waste at the site will have elevated concentrations of certain metals and elements that occur in our
natural environment,” Ms Bell said.
“The cell will be engineered to world’s best practice and waste will be stored and treated in a way
that ensures it cannot cause harm to the environment though emissions to air, soil or water
Ms Bell said Tasmania was currently the only state in Australia without such a facility.
“This waste is not coming from overseas or interstate, but rather from stockpiles around Tasmania,
being regularly produced by our industries and businesses,” Ms Bell said.
“There is a similar facility within 30km of Melbourne’s CBD and the Copping site is 52km from Hobart
and approximately 2.5km from the nearest house.”
Ms Bell said the site would not be taking any liquids, oils or solvents.
“Nyrstar’s current plans are to ship its jarosite to South Australia for reprocessing and it will not be
coming back to Tasmania,” she said.
Gate fees for the Copping site have not yet been set, as they depend on final construction, close out
and rehabilitation costs, but they are estimated to be in excess of $100 per tonne.
Southern Waste Solutions is a joint authority owned by Clarence, Kingborough, Sorell and Tasman
Councils and has been operating since the Copping site was constructed more than 10 years ago.
• Copping landfill site – Questions and Answers
Who is Southern Waste Solutions?
Southern Waste Solutions is a joint authority owned by Clarence, Kingborough, Sorell and Tasman Councils,
charged with the role of managing the Copping landfill site. Profits generated by the authority are reinvested in
the site or distributed to its owners to assist in the delivery of better services to their municipalities.
How long has Southern Waste Solutions been in operation?
Southern Waste Solutions has been operating since the Copping landfill was constructed more than 10 years ago
on some 765 hectares of land, 52 kilometres east of Hobart.
What standards are set to monitor its operations?
As part of its approval to operate, the site has been subject to regular six monthly independent monitoring since
it was constructed and throughout this period it has never failed to meet or exceed strict environmental
standards. These standards are set by the Environment Protection Authority and considered to be best practice.
What type of waste does the Copping site handle?
The Copping landfill site currently manages Category 1 and Category 2 level waste. This consists of general
household waste; clinical waste treated to general household waste level; and low level contaminated waste
(which can only be accepted upon approval by the Environment Protection Authority) such as contaminated soils
What about ground water contamination?
As part of the regular six-monthly testing of the site, the ground water is also tested. This ground water has
always met or exceeded the standards set by the authorities and in fact has been generally found to be of a
higher standard when it leaves the site, than when it enters it from adjacent properties.
In other words, the controls to protect ground water at the Copping landfill site provide a high level of
protection to ground water and the surrounding environment, including the Carlton River estuary.
What has been proposed?
Southern Waste Solutions has applied for and been given permission to construct a controlled waste facility at
its Copping landfill site.
What is the controlled waste that will be accepted at the facility?
Controlled waste is material that needs additional levels of secure storage beyond what is required in a normal
The proposed facility will be engineered to world’s best practice and the waste will be stored in a manner to
ensure it cannot cause harm to the environment through soil or water contamination.
Under the terms of the permit to operate, no liquid waste will be accepted or placed into the controlled waste
Materials that will be accepted include solids and sludges such as contaminated soil, solid paint waste, building
materials and industrial residues.
All waste material will require prior approval from Environment Protection Authority before it is accepted at the
On arrival waste materials will be immediately unloaded and securely contained and covered within the facility
to ensure no contamination can occur.
What about dust from unloading of waste material?
As part of permit conditions for the transport of controlled waste, all loads must be fully covered and in leakproof
containers. On arrival the material will not be unloaded during high wind or other unfavourable weather
Further permitted engineering controls, such as recirculation of leachate will be used during unloading to ensure
minimal dust is generated as is current practice at the site.
What happens to the waste once it is stored at the facility?
Each load of waste material will be tracked and its GPS coordinates recorded for future reference. Should reuse
or recycling options become available in the future it will be possible to extract the materials for recovery, but
this would be subject to Environmental Protection Authority controls.
The remaining materials will be securely stored in an impermeable barrier, designed to meet world’s best
practice. The barrier will be continually monitored to ensure it is effective in perpetuity.
Why has Copping been selected?
The existing Copping landfill site is recognised as a very well-managed facility with best practice environmental
processes. It is not-for-profit as it is owned by a joint local government authority, made up of Clarence, Sorell,
Tasman and Kingborough Councils.
In addition, the site has an ideal solid rock base upon which the facility will be built. The waste materials are
further enclosed within impermeable barriers. This prevents any impacts occurring into the groundwater or
How big will the controlled waste cell be?
The Copping landfill site is on some 765 hectares of land and it is anticipated the size of the controlled waste cell
will be some 100 metres wide by 200 metres long. It will be located well above any flood zones, fully security
fenced, with access limited to only authorised individuals.
What about traffic, will there be more trucks?
At maximum we predict that additional truck movements to and from the controlled waste site will be an
average of five trucks a day.
The vehicles used are required to meet Environment Protection Authority requirements, with sealed containers,
covered loads and appropriate spill kits. All drivers are required to meet relevant standards for the transport of
Why didn’t the community know about this proposal?
While a proposal to better manage controlled waste in Tasmania has been talked about for many years, it was
not until January this year that Southern Waste Solutions lodged a notice of intent with the Department of
In lodging the development application and development proposal and the environmental management plan,
Southern Waste Solutions met all requirements in terms of process. This saw the assessing authorities place
appropriate public notices, issue media statements and background materials on websites to ensure information
was available for those who wished to know more.
In addition, landowners directly adjacent to the Copping site were individually contacted and invited to meet
with Southern Waste Solutions to provide input.
However, we accept that more could have been done to ensure the broader community was aware of the
proposal and have publicly undertaken to do all within our power to ensure all concerns are considered and