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Residents, council fight chemical storage bid

The Age (Australia): Residents, council fight chemical storage bid

“The EPA has ordered an investigation of Shell’s air-monitoring equipment. It is also considering court action against Shell over an oil spill into Corio Bay in April – one of hundreds of environmental breaches at the company’s Geelong refinery in recent years.”

Thursday August 18, 2005 – 2:05PM

By Sasha Shtargot

The City of Greater Geelong and residents’ groups are fighting plans to store a toxic chemical next to the Shell oil refinery in Corio.

The EPA has approved an application by Terminals Pty Ltd to keep butadiene at its existing Corio facility, across the road from the Shell plant.

The council and residents’ groups are challenging the EPA’s works approval in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Melbourne today.

Geelong Community for Good Life spokeswoman Sue McLean said before the hearing that residents were concerned about toxic emissions from the storage facility.

She said butadiene was a toxic carcinogen and that it was extremely dangerous to have such a chemical next to the existing oil refinery.

“The EPA are not doing their official job to protect community health”.

John Williamson, the EPA senior manager of rural services, told the tribunal that the agency had gone to “extra lengths” to notify and consult the local community about the storage of butadiene.

Mr Williamson’s role was to oversee the EPA assessment process of Terminal’s application to store the potentially carcinogenic chemical.

However, under cross examination by Anthony Southall QC, for the City of Greater Geelong, Mr Williamson admitted the EPA did not have guidelines or a draft policy for the handling of butadiene.

Mr Williamson told the tribunal he had not been inside the Terminals facility at Wharf Road and had not discussed any need for an environmental effects statement.

The hearing continues before members Tonia Komesaroff and Sylvia Mainwaring.

More than 25 residents from various Geelong community groups attended the hearing. Ten of the residents are expected to register their opposition to the plan.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency received more than 50 objections to the works approval, in the form of letters and petitions.

Exposure to butadiene gas can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, according to a Department of Environment fact sheet.

Breathing very high levels for a short time can cause central nervous system damage, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue, headache, decreased pulse rate and pressure and unconsciousness.

Long term exposures at lower levels have shown increases in heart and lung damage.

Shell has been accused of withholding data showing that high levels of potentially cancer-causing benzene have been released from the Geelong refinery.

Former CSIRO scientist Chris Mardon, who analysed benzene data recorded by Shell’s air-monitoring equipment, claims record levels of benzene emissions came from the refinery, which is near Geelong Grammar and primary schools, over 13 days in April.

In a sworn statement lodged with VCAT, Mr Mardon said the April data was not included in a June presentation by Shell to local residents about benzene emissions.

The EPA has ordered an investigation of Shell’s air-monitoring equipment.

It is also considering court action against Shell over an oil spill into Corio Bay in April – one of hundreds of environmental breaches at the company’s Geelong refinery in recent years.

www.theage.com.au

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/residents-council-fight-chemical-storage-bid/2005/08/18/1123958162012.html

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