Investigation into asbestos-ridden fuel at Gold Coast site

A MAJOR industrial site has been banned from burning thousands of tonnes of stockpiled fuel and workers have been laid off as investigations into asbestos contamination continue.

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) last week ordered the closure of the Renewable Power Australia (RPA) cogeneration plant at Woongoolba after hazardous material was found in the green waste used to power the plant.

Fist-sized pieces of asbestos were discovered in piles of recycled materials intended for burning and reported to authorities by a whistleblower.

Air quality checks were carried out at the nearby Woongoolba State School. The results came back clear.

It is understood at least 2606 tonnes of recyclable material from NSW has been dumped at the site since December 30. Contractor Benedict Recycling this week denied delivering contaminated products to the Gold Coast facility. The origin of the asbestos is not yet known.

The DES has allowed RPA to restart the plant with clean material, but it is prohibited from burning the contaminated stockpiles.

However, a worker said they had not been able to return to work.
“Emergency directions are still in force, so we can’t go on site and the machines aren’t working,” he said.
“Nothing has happened and people have been let go, it is just a waiting game.”
The worker said staff were still trying to work out how to remove the stockpiles.
“We are still waiting on test results to work out how to remove it. It is going to be a long time before we can start up.”

Workers also told the Bulletin that little had been done to quell health fears of those who may have handled the asbestos.
“We need to know how long this was happening for and how badly we are affected.”

Authorities are still working to determine how much of the material had been burned.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) confirmed it was investigating how the asbestos arrived on site.

“The NSW EPA has received a report from a community member regarding an allegation of asbestos material being transported to Queensland from a NSW waste facility,” the spokesman said.

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