Oil spill clean up in shambles, waste industry says

“The industry offered the [Queensland EPA] and others to help, to assist them … phone calls weren’t returned and then, at the eleventh hour, they phoned various landfillers,” says head of the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association, Rick Ralph.“The whole exercise, as far as where the material’s going and how it’s being managed, you would have to say has been very uncoordinated and a shambles.”Some material is believed to have gone to Thiess’s Swanbank Landfill, some to Veolia’s Tea Tree site, and some to a temporary holding cell at a landfill in Caboolture Shire.The state’s EPA redirected queries regarding storage and treatment of the contaminated sand to Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ), which is coordinating the clean up. An MSQ media contact believed material was being taken to a clay-lined pit, purpose built for the temporary storage of the material.Ralph says the oil-contaminated sand that has been collected “has ended up at licensed facilities,” but he is critical of the process of engaging industry when the crisis broke. “[The EPA] did not consult with industry, they were running around Saturday afternoon [looking for a landfill] … it wasn’t a coordinated response at all,” says Ralph. “The [waste] industry in south east Queensland could have responded very effectively. The EPA and everyone knew who we are and what our capabilities are…[but the engagement process] has been a shambles.”Sven Alder from Queensland-based hazardous waste treatment specialist Virotec says his company has not received any approaches from the EPA, but it does have the bioremediation skills to clean up the contaminated sands in 3-6 months. Remediation in a lined landfill can be done quite simply, says Alder, although it will take 12-18 months to break down the hydrocarbon material without using a high-tech treatment such as the one his company offers. He says a recent (EPA Queensland approved and supervised) project that Virotec undertook for a construction company saw around 50,000m3 of hydrocarbon contaminated soil remediated in 3-6 months, at a total cost or around $6/m3 – putting a “ball park” on what it might cost to clean up the sand volunteers are shovelling off Queensland beaches.Courtesy of Inside Waste Weekly

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