EPA has overseen the safe treatment and disposal of 80 tonnes of toxic waste that has been stored in Victoria since 2001.
Following extensive trials with waste management specialists, EPA selected Cleanaway (previously Toxfree) in Queensland to undertake stabilisation and disposal of the waste – which contained a complex mix of pesticides.
Specialist transport services were secured to ensure safe transport of the waste from storage facilities in Victoria to processing facilities in Narangba, Queensland.
All relevant, current standards and guidelines applied throughout the transport, treatment and disposal process. EPA also required any issues to be reported to EPA and addressed according to the agreed process. No issues were reported during the process.
Transportation of the waste commenced in November 2018, with disposal completed by September 2020. All 352 drums of waste have now been transported and fully processed for safe disposal.
The waste was collected and stored by EPA, on behalf of the State Government, as part of a nationally coordinated program called ChemCollect.
ChemCollect called for collection and safe disposal of certain banned pesticides, fungicides, and other veterinary chemicals.
Approximately 235 tonnes were collected in Victoria and 1676 tonnes were collected nationwide. Most of the collected chemicals were treated, disposed of or destroyed safely at the time, however EPA was required to manage a stockpile of 80 tonnes that were unable to be treated at the time due to the mix of pesticides.
The waste had been stored securely in Melbourne until technology at waste management facilities evolved to allow for safe treatment and disposal of the chemicals.
When viable and safe solutions for treatment and destruction of the stockpile became available, EPA led rigorous and extensive technical and commercial assessments before finding two facilities that were put through waste treatment trials in 2016.
EPA was responsible for overseeing the trials to ensure they were conducted according to best practice methods.
The trials determined that Cleanaway in Narangba, Queensland had the most suitable available technologies and processes to resolve the issue from an environmental, commercial and technical perspective.
Read more about the waste treatment and disposal
The waste is a mixture of ‘persistent organic pollutants’ banned from use under the Stockholm Convention. The chemicals that make up the waste are a mixture of organo-chlorinated pesticides (OCPs) and metal-based pesticides. These pesticides were used for agricultural purposes, to protect crops from damage by insects and other pests.
The chemical wastes came from farmers and others in the agricultural and veterinary sector. As the Stockholm Convention was being mandated and prior to its formal international adoption in 2001, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments jointly funded the collection of chemicals that had been banned for use. The collection, between 1999 and 2002, included 235 tonnes of wastes including pesticides, fungicides and other veterinary chemicals. 80 tonnes of the wastes were deemed un-treatable as metal based pesticides and organic based pesticides had been mixed together prior to collection.
If consumed, these chemicals have the potential to accumulate in the body, so organisers of the Stockholm Convention sought to have them banned. The Stockholm Convention was formally adopted in 2001 and reviews of pesticides that may be added to the list regularly occur. Further information on the known toxicological effects of persistent organic pollutants can be found on the Stockholm Convention website.
The treatment of organo-chlorinated pesticides and metal-based pesticides separately has well known methods. However, when these chemicals are mixed, a separation process is required to allow for the separate treatment methods to be applied. This separation technique, along with the treatment method, being undertaken at the one location has not been available to a standard suitable to EPA until now. EPA required that this waste be able to be treated in the same location and to best practice standards. That includes ensuring the minimisation of potentially toxic by-products and the minimisation of solid end products, which will need to go to landfill.
The wastes are stored in a chemical storage facility in Laverton, Victoria. The waste was originally placed in metal 44 gallon (~205L) drums. The metal drums have since been encased in UN dangerous goods-approved drums that are sitting on pallets. These drums have been proven safe for transport, including in the event of dislodgement from a secure lodging within a vehicle.
The transport will be in accordance with Dangerous Goods transport regulations, EPA requirements and national requirements.
As Cleanaway is in Narangba, Queensland, EPA will arrange for the drums to be transported via cargo train to the site. The wastes are stored in UN-rated dangerous goods drums, which will be secured within a sealed container (similar to a shipping container yet appropriate for storage on a train). There will be no passengers on the train and safe transport methods will meet Dangerous Goods transport requirements. Transportation of the waste will be safe and bears minimal to no risk to the community.
After the waste enters the system, it will undergo a thermal process to separate the organic components from the metals. The metals will come out as ash and will be chemically immobilised to prevent potential leaching, then solidified to prepare them for disposal in accordance with EPA and Queensland Department of Environment and Health Protection (DEHP) disposal guidelines.
The volatilised organics will be destroyed and by-products treated through a best-practice controlled-emission process. This will include rapid quenching, and passing the emissions through activated carbon or liquid scrubbers.
Reviewed 22 December 2020