Residents opposing waste-to-energy facilities in the regional villages of Tarago and Bungonia, near Goulburn, say they shouldn’t be dumped with Sydney’s rubbish.
The proposed $600 million facilities will be capable of burning 710,000 tonnes of waste sourced locally, and from Sydney and Canberra, each year. That’s enough to fill more than 300 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Jerrara Power intends to build its facility on Jerrara Road, in Bungonia, within five years, while Veolia plans to build its facility near its existing Woodlawn Bioreactor in Tarago, also within five years.
Both are considered state significant developments and will be determined by the NSW Independent Planning Commission, which residents fear will make them harder to oppose.
The energy companies, which will financially benefit from their proposals, say the facilities are a win for the environment, diverting waste not suitable for recycling from landfill and creating clean electricity by burning it.
The system works by using steam created from burning waste to drive a turbine connected to a generator. Jerrara Power and Veolia expect electricity created by these facilities to power about 93,000 homes.
However, local residents are worried about the impact on air quality and human health.
“Incineration is the dirtiest and cheapest in dollar value, yet most expensive in human and environmental health impacts,” said Danielle Marsden-Ballard, a social and environmental scientist, and Goulburn district property owner.
“The superfine toxins and particulate matter still travel to Goulburn, the Southern Highlands and beyond when the winds are right.”
Complaints about the smell from the Woodlawn Bioreactor in Tarago are already common. There were 21 complaints between January and April 2021 alone about a stench like ‘old garbage’ coming from the site.
Veolia said the new waste-to-energy facility in Tarago will be enclosed to contain and manage the odour. However, gases from the burnt waste will still be released into the air through a chimney.
Jerrara Power’s facility in Bungonia will also release gases via a chimney, and only the delivered waste and remaining ash will be enclosed.
Village residents are also concerned about an increase in trucks on their local roads.
“I’m most annoyed about the wear and tear on our local roads caused by the trucks, the danger of big trucks, and the fact the rubbish is coming from Sydney,” said Bel Agren, from Tallong, near Bungonia. “If it is meant to be a greener option, then surely the fact they are trucking it hours away offsets that? Why don’t they burn it up there?”
Jerrara Power has begun consulting Bungonia residents while it works through the possible environmental, economic and social impacts of its proposal.
Bungonia residents within a few kilometres of the proposal site should have received a letter from the privately owned Australian company’s managing director, Chris Berkefeld, about a face-to-face meeting.
Bungonia, Marulan and Goulburn communities are also invited to register for community workshops to provide input into Jerrara Power’s proposal.
The first of the community workshops are on 11 May, 12 May and 15 May in Bungonia and Marulan. People can register online here, by calling Jerrara Power toll-free on 1800 519 542 or emailing [email protected].
Veolia held an open day on 18 April and is seeking feedback from community leaders, including Goulburn Mulwaree Council, about its plan for the Advanced Energy Recovery Centre in Tarago before creating a development application.
In the meantime, Tarago and Bungonia residents have begun writing to their state member, Wendy Tuckerman, and federal member and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor.
They have also created action groups and started a petition to stop the Jerrara Power proposal, which had 318 signatures on Wednesday, 5 May.