Fluoride Action Network

Digging up Boyne Smelters dodgy past

Source: The Observer (Gladstone, Queensland) | December 10th, 2008
Location: Australia
Industry type: Aluminum Industry

INDUSTRY has lied by omission to dupe the local community about their environmental credentials, according to eco-campaigner Ian Woodhouse and Friday’s discovery of a contaminated site at the Boyne Smelters (BSL) site was proof.

Waste material dating from the 1980s, including used carbon anodes containing fluorides, was uncovered last week during preliminary earthworks for the new carbon bake at BSL.

“It proves the point that a few of us have been making for years,” Mr Woodhouse said.

“Industry is not responsible or open. Basically industry has not been telling the truth and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is not aware of the things they’ve been doing.

“They (industry) have buried volatile material in the ground without a thought for the environment.”

MR Woodhouse said there was anecdotal evidence that the dump site at BSL wasn’t the only one.

“We are aware of stories in the 80s where industry was involved in dumping toxic materials at sites around Boyne Island and Gladstone.

“And why did they bury it?” he said.

“They buried it because it was cheaper.

“Workers were exposed to it; the environment was exposed to it and they were doing it to save money.”

A press release from Boyne Smelters late yesterday said the company was working with the EPA to ensure removal of material from the unmarked waste site did not impact on the environment.

“The previously unrecorded landfill was discovered last week on the construction site for the new Carbon Bake Furnace,” a BSL spokesperson said.

“The EPA was contacted immediately and the area quarantined before investigations began.

“The materials, which contained carbon anodes, some process material and construction material (steel and concrete), were dug from the landfill and taken to an existing landfill site which meets strict environmental controls.

“BSL has worked with the EPA to establish the most environmentally-sensitive process of removing the waste and storing it appropriately.”

The spokesperson said BSL has a groundwater monitoring program in place in which bores were sampled and tested annually.

“This long-term sampling program has shown no impacts on our environment from our operations.”

An EPA spokesperson said monitoring of ground water next to the area where the material was found did not show significant quantities of fluoride.

However Mr Woodhouse said this was to be expected.

“What’s the point of doing readings now after 20 years?” he said.

“It’s bad enough that they buried it and didn’t use proper disposal.

“Fluoride is the thing we are most worried about. It affects people’s health and bones.”

Mr Woodhouse said the dump site dated back to BSL’s early days when they were naive about what they were handling.

But he said their environmental savvy still had some way to go.

“In recent times we have reports of alumina dust flying into the mangroves from the conveyor belt used to transport it between QAL and BSL.

“Tonnes of alumina dust was sprayed over the precious environment and those nano-particles were going into the air.”

Mr Woodhouse said the dust was scooped up by front end loaders and removed.