Programs and initiatives

ChemCollect


EPA has arranged for 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 has selected Cleanaway (previously Toxfree) in Queensland to undertake stabilisation and disposal of the waste – which contains a complex mix of pesticides.

Specialist transport services have been 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 will apply throughout the transport, treatment and disposal process. EPA has also required that any issues must be reported to EPA and addressed according to the agreed process. To date no issues have been reported.

Transportation of the waste commenced in November 2018 with disposal expected to be complete by December 2020 or earlier. As of 31 May 2019, 112 drums of waste, from the original 352, have been transported for processing. 

Background

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 has 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 has the most suitable available technologies and processes to resolve the issue from an environmental, commercial and technical perspective.

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Q&A on ChemCollect + Expand all Collapse all

  • What is the waste? What chemicals are present in the waste?

    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.

  • Where did the waste come from?

    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.

  • Why were the chemicals banned?

    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.

  • Why has it taken so long to treat and dispose of the waste?

    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.

  • Where has the waste been stored until now?

    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.

  • How will the waste be safely transported from Victoria to the treatment facilities in Queensland?

    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.

  • How will the waste be treated?

    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.

Page last updated on 25 Jun 2019