Asbestos material from the demolition of Morwell Power Station will almost certainly be transported by truck to the other side of Melbourne following a delayed approvals process for an on site asbestos landfill cell.
It comes after site liquidator Energy Brix Australia Corporation applied to the Environment Protection Authority to construct an asbestos landfill facility at the Morwell Power Station site, which the EPA has since approved.
The proposal needs to be approved by Latrobe City Council before it can go ahead, however, on more than one occasion councillors voted to defer a decision while they investigate other options, citing fears for community safety due to the proximity of the proposed cell to the Morwell township.
At a council meeting on Monday, councillors again voted to defer making a decision until the possibility of a shared, or nearby, asbestos material landfill site with ENGIE's Hazelwood Power Station was investigated and relevant approvals sought from the Minister for Planning.
EBAC site remediation manager Barry Dungey said EBAC was willing to investigate the shared option, however, the company still planned to go ahead with the scheduled demolition in September.
"The reality is my project starts in September and what I am fearful of [is] all we are doing is using up time which will result in me only having one option," he said.
"I've got two months' worth of time to construct an [asbestos] cell. I can't do that until I get approvals from council and it has been indicated the earliest I can get approval from council is now in early August.
"What I expect now is that some material is going to be going down the road."
Mr Dungey said it was "too early" to say how much asbestos material would need to be trucked the 200-odd kilometres to a disposal site at Bulla, north-west of Melbourne.
"You need to make the safest choice based on the technical advice available and we believe the safest choice is the one we have been recommending since May [last year]," he said.
"We have the option to go to VCAT, however, I've been told that waiting times for VCAT are typically three months. Even under that scenario, by the time we have constructed the cell it will be five months away.
"If it gets to the half-way point of demolition and we have been trucking it [asbestos material] and haven't built the asbestos cell, it makes to no sense to build the asbestos cell."
ENGIE Hazelwood rehabilitation project director Tony Innocenzi said ENGIE was open to continued discussions with EBAC and the EPA on a common asbestos landfill site even though previous discussions found the proposal was not viable for either company.
"While ENGIE appreciates the Latrobe City Council's views, we operate under strict requirements within our EPA Victoria Licence and it prohibits ENGIE from depositing wastes that are not generated from its premises," he said.
Mr Innocenzi said combining asbestos disposal at the one site was a very complex process which had previously been ruled unlikely to meet EPA regulatory requirements and would take considerable time to work through with or without the added complexity of a land sale.
"We acknowledge this is a complex and difficult regulatory path to proceed, and remain happy to engage in further discussions with EPA Victoria should circumstances change."
Latrobe City Council chief executive Gary Van Driel said council was working with appropriate state government departments to facilitate a meeting between all relevant parties to discuss the matter.
"If a positive, timely resolution to this matter occurs a special council meeting could be held to consider the matter in July," he said.