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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4690 ..

Belconnen Landfill

MR BERRY: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Minister, over the last few weeks we have had repeated reports of problems with the sullage pit at the Belconnen tip. I have with me a letter from ACT Waste which says that everything is okay, if I can use that expression, at the tip. I also have a report, which I will seek to table in a moment, from MPL Environmental Services, which has had a look at the situation and says something quite to the contrary. It says that in many cases it is dangerous. I seek to table those documents, Mr Speaker.

Leave granted.

MR BERRY: Today I received an urgent telephone call informing me that a truckload of what appeared to be hospital waste was dumped in the pit. The waste included hazardous and possibly infectious material, in particular used cotton buds and syringes. When will you act to ensure that the waste dumped at the Belconnen tip does not endanger the environment, workers or the public at the tip?

MR DE DOMENICO: I thank Mr Berry for his question. First of all, let me say that the pond that Mr Berry has been alluding to has operated on this site for almost 20 years.

Mrs Carnell: It operated under them.

MR DE DOMENICO: It did. It has operated for that period without one complaint from the landfill workers or plant operators. For 20 years there has not been one complaint. The CFMEU's claim that the sullage ponds have caused rashes and vomiting to some of its members has not been substantiated. This raises the question as to whether the CFMEU is really concerned about the health and welfare of their workers or is just playing politics. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt. The Government considers the health and wellbeing of its workers to be of paramount importance. There are clear, strict occupational health and safety practices and guidelines in place to ensure that the issues of real concern are looked into and, if necessary, rectified. These guidelines include the issuing of a provisional improvement notice by the workplace OH and S representative following consultation with the employer. I understand that no such notice has been issued in relation to the sludge pit. That is point No. 1.

The day after the initial concerns were raised by the CFMEU and the media - no-one came anywhere near me; it was raised through the media, but it does not matter - air quality samples were taken and analysed by an environmental consultant. The results showed that the air quality is approximately 1,000 times better than Worksafe Australia's workplace exposure standards. There are certain standards Australia-wide. We did the test. The test result is 1,000 times better than we need to be. On top of that, samples of the sludge were analysed by Ecowise, and the results indicate that contaminant concentrations, excluding hydrocarbons, which are indicative of petroleum-based products - that is why it is there: To dump petroleum-based products - are well within environmental quality guidelines. Ecowise did the test and it was okay.

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