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Battery recycling plant gets green light

It’s taken 10 months of public consultation, referral to other agencies, technical assessment of the application and research for Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) to grant a Works Approval (WA) for the construction of a used lead acid battery (ULAB) recycling plant in Hazelwood North.

The WA announced this week is however, is subject to a list of conditions. These include the provision of the final detailed design for the recycling plant to ensure it meets the strict emissions specifications required by the Works Approval. It also requires a full risk management plan and ongoing engagement with the community.

Processing 50,000 used batteries

Last year, EPA received a Works Approval application from Chunxing for the construction of the facility at Crown Allotment 2047, Fourth Road, Hazelwood North.

It will process 50,000 tonnes of used lead acid batteries into 28,000 tonnes of refined lead each year.

EPA Manager Development Assessments Stephen Adamthwaite explained that, after an extended community consultation period to accommodate disruptions caused by the bushfires and two community information sessions, it received more than 170 submissions from the community.

“The application was referred to eight government agencies for advice and EPA engaged a technical specialist with comprehensive knowledge of ULAB recycling world-wide to review the technical proposal. EPA is satisfied, subject to conditions, that the proposal will comply with the relevant legislation, polices and guidelines.”

Exhaustive and fair process

Ascend Waste Management handled the Works Approval process and managing director Geoff Latimer told Inside Waste that the process had been exhaustive.

“It was a good, fair process and the EPA concentrated on the facts, they certainly dug for more evidence  and we’re grateful for that.”

He is adamant that there is no threat to public health in the project citing an independent Human Health Risk Assessment, which studied all pathways of acute and chronic impact. It concluded that “there are no risks to the health of residents.”  “It stated not some risk or low risk but ‘no risk’,” Latimer said.

“This supports our submission to EPA. The worst case modelling result anywhere in the Hazelwood North area shows lead emissions at 300 times lower than EPA standards set to protect human health, and it falls within the boundary of the Chunxing facility. Additionally, the worst case modelling result at the nearest residence is more than 1,500 times lower than EPA standards, which is negligible, and 100-fold lower than ‘natural background’.

“Our commitment of zero impact to community health and environment from this project has been consistent from the beginning. There will be no health or environmental trade off,” he said.

Commenting on the bigger picture of ULAB recycling in Australia, Latimer added that the emission rates in the WA are indicative of future EPA licence limits, which will be the strictest emission limits of any ULAB recycling plant in Australia and most likely the world.

“With the addition of a modern, highly controlled facility into the Australian infrastructure set, this will likely put a stop to the practice of exporting large quantities of ULAB scrap overseas, retaining the value to be gained from full recycling in Australia,” he concluded.