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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1070 ..

Totalcare Incinerator

MS TUCKER: My question is to the Minister for Urban Services, Mr Smyth, and relates to the recent announcement by Totalcare that it is spending $300,000 on installing new air pollution control equipment for its high temperature incinerator at Mitchell to eliminate a range of pollutants, particularly dioxin. Minister, Totalcare has said that it has worked closely with Environment ACT over the past two years to ensure that it follows best practice emission control methods. I draw your attention to statements made by the former Minister for the Environment, Mr Humphries, in early 1997, in response to concerns raised by the Conservation Council about emissions from the incinerator, that no dioxin was being produced in the incinerator because the waste was burned at a high enough temperature and that checks of the incinerator for dioxin revealed none present. Can you tell the Assembly whether the former Minister's statements were wrong or that Totalcare is spending money to eliminate a pollutant that is not supposed to be produced at the incinerator?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I am not aware of the circumstances in which Mr Humphries made that statement, but I am sure that the information he gave the Assembly was correct at that time. But this Government has always said that it will continue to monitor these things. As Ms Tucker has pointed out, Environment ACT and Totalcare have been monitoring and keeping a close eye on the incinerator. Some results were gained recently that showed that there was some measure of dioxin being produced. I would congratulate Totalcare for spending the $300,000 to keep our atmosphere as clean as they possibly can.

MS TUCKER: I have a supplementary question. Minister, how much dioxin has been released into the air from the incinerator up to now, to justify the need for this new pollution control equipment? Could you table for members any reports of testing done at the incinerator for the presence of dioxin which provide this information?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, this arises from meetings that I have had with Greenpeace. I have met with Greenpeace several times. Indeed, Greenpeace asked that I raise this issue at forums such as ANZECC, which I have done. There are two places in the ACT where dioxins may be found. The first tested was the ACTEW site, and they were producing 0.0104 nanograms per cubic metre, effectively zero. The emission from the Totalcare incinerator was, in fact, 3.35 nanograms per cubic metre. It is with that in mind that I am sure that Totalcare is spending the money to ensure that we keep the dioxin output to a minimum.

It is interesting, though, that opinions do vary on the effect of dioxins and the implications of dioxins in the environment. It is curious that the Germans have set a standard of 0.1 nanograms per cubic metre. The Americans, for instance, have set a standard of 2.3 nanograms per cubic metre. The opinions as to the long-term effect of dioxins vary. That is something that I am sure Totalcare will continue to monitor.

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