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Media Release: Incinerator Audit Confirms Closure

21 Jun 2013

An Audit of the potential risks from dioxins in soils and sediments from emissions from the now-closed East Arm Wharf quarantine incinerator has been received the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA).

The NT EPA refused to issue a licence for the operation of the East Arm Port Quarantine incinerator in October 2012, based on evidence to conclude that the East Arm Quarantine Incinerator was generating emissions of dioxins and furans that are likely to cause pollution resulting in environmental harm.

The EPA issued to Darwin Port Corporation a Notice to Carry Out an Environmental Audit Program on 22 October 2012 and the incinerator was closed on 4 November 2012 by the Minister for Transport.

Alternative means for disposing of quarantine waste have since been found and implemented

The audit, undertaken by AECOM Australia PTY LTD, found the concentrations of dioxins and furans in the soil and sediment resulting from the incinerator emissions ‘do not pose an increased risk to “marine fauna” or “human health” under the exposure scenarios considered for the Audit.

Chair of the NT EPA Dr Bill Freeland says this is reassuring news.

“Following six years of emissions of dioxins and furans up to 31 times over the national and international standard, it is good news that the emissions have not impacted on marine fauna and human health.

“The Department of Health have also reviewed the report and concluded that the levels of dioxins and furans are not likely to pose any additional risk to health.

Dr Freeland said the closure of the East Arm quarantine incinerator precipitated the drafting of new guidelines for the Disposal of Waste by Incineration, one of 11 new and updated environmental guidelines relating the Environmental Assessment Act and the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act.  These draft guidelines are currently open for public comment on the NT EPA website.

“The Port incinerator did not meet these standards and will remain closed.

“The outcome of the audit and closure of the incinerator remove possible cause for significant concern about the incinerator’s potential environmental and health impacts on the harbour area and the population of Darwin and Palmerston.

“The NT EPA does not intend pursuing the matter any further,” Dr Freeland said.

The Audit report has been provided to the Minister for Environment Peter Chandler, and is available on the NT EPA website http://www.ntepa.nt.gov.au/waste-pollution/compliance/audits

Media contact – Lesley Major  0419 288 284