Council told to trust EPA judgement

The EPA has approved plans to establish an asbestos cell at the old Morwell Power Station. file photograph
The EPA has approved plans to establish an asbestos cell at the old Morwell Power Station. file photograph

Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS chief executive Vicki Hamilton said councillors should be able to trust the Environment Protection Authority's judgment regarding the proposed asbestos cell to be established at the old Morwell Power Station.

The EPA approved the proposed asbestos cell for the storage of 15,000 cubic meters of asbestos from the power station in a deep, sealed ash pit.

Latrobe City councillors were unable to reach a decision regarding the asbestos cell at the Monday meeting, with some councillors citing concerns nearby residents would suffer if the process was not performed correctly.

Cr Graeme Middlemiss suggested moving the location of the asbestos to a spot behind the briquette factories further away from the Morwell township.

"At no point have I said that the burying [of the asbestos] will be unsafe," he said.

"What is suggested was that we doubled the distance from Morwell. Instead of in front of the briquette factory, we bury it behind the briquette factory."

However Cr Alan McFarlane said he was satisfied with the plans considering they had been approved by the EPA.

"I am not an expert, but I would expect the EPA are," he said.

Ms Hamilton said she was disappointed no decision had been reached and said she was satisfied with the asbestos cell proposal.

"I look after people all day, every day who have asbestos diseases. I would not agree to something that would put community at risk," Ms Hamilton said.

"I certainly don't want to see 400-odd trucks going to the other side of Melbourne."

Energy Brix Australia remediation project manager Barry Dungey said the asbestos removal process would be done under strict, controlled conditions and as per regulations.

"Those conditions dictate, particularly for friable asbestos, that air monitoring has to be conducted outside tented enclosures," he said.

"With friable asbestos you have to tent the areas, they are all sealed and [workers] work in appropriate respirators that contain all the asbestos fibres within the tented area.

"When you talk about disposal, all the asbestos taken out of those enclosures will be double bagged, will then be sealed in a 44-gallon drum or into specially designed high-density polyurethane bags.

"Asbestos is only dangerous if it is airborne, [so] everything is about making sure the fibre is fully contained before it is disposed of ... so when you come to disposal of asbestos into a cell, there is no risk because it is already sealed and bagged."

The matter remains in limbo after two motions were put forward at council and subsequently lost, the first an alternate motion to refuse the asbestos cell a permit and the second to grant the permit.

Councillors were not the only ones to express concerns regarding the proposed asbestos cell, however, with multiple community members speaking against the proposal at the council meeting. The matter will go before Latrobe City councillors again in July.