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Willawong residents fear exposure to toxic chemicals from waste incinerator

Description: Jasmin Daly of Willawong

Jasmin Daly, 75, outside her Willawong home, which is near a waste incinerator that’s potentially exposing residents to toxic chemicals. Picture: Mark Cranitch Source: The Courier-Mail

MORE than two dozen homes and businesses might have been put at risk of exposure to cancer-causing chemical emissions from a waste incinerator in Brisbane’s south.

The incinerator is also near the site of a huge proposed development earmarked for as many as 10,000 homes.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has called on the State Government to fast track air and noise testing after a report into the Willawong incinerator found toxic emissions could be affecting homes up to 1km away.

Homes along Sherbrooke Rd were believed to be the most at risk.

Cr Newman said preliminary modelling done for the report into the Ace Waste incinerator found that, if it operated 24 hours a day, nearby homes could potentially be exposed to dangerous chemicals above recommended levels.

The facility burns medical waste and is, legally, emitting 10 times the international standard of some chemicals.

A 300m exclusion zone was originally imposed around the incinerator. That was raised to 500m, and last February the Department of Environment and Resource Management increased it to 1000m amid concerns emissions might affect new development planned for the area.

Cr Newman said that council’s concerns were triggered after it began planning for the development, east of the site.

Willawong has been earmarked as a priority greenfield residential site by the State Government, with a predicted 6000 to 10000 homes planned to be built there.

While new development has been left in limbo until a final study into the incinerator is handed down in December, Cr Newman said the council was still worried about the effect it could be having on nearby workers and the residents of 15 homes.

He said the potential risk to existing homes had forced him to go public.

Cr Newman said council officers and DERM staff would doorknock homes and businesses to inform them of the potential risks.

One local resident, Jasmin Daly, 75, who has lived at her Sherbrooke Rd home for 46 years, yesterday said she knew nothing about the report.

“It doesn’t make me feel the best (to hear this),” she said.

“We have a lot of swamp birds and I watch them to see if they drop dead.”

DERM assistant Director-General, Damien Brown, said the results of the council-commissioned air studies “provided to date indicate no reason to suggest any health concerns for the nearest existing residents in the area”.

“ACE Waste are required to operate within strict environmental conditions and is regulated DERM,” he said.

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