A proposed incinerator near Lithgow, raises serious environmental concerns for the Blue Mountains, environmentalists warn.
The $170 million project, declared a "state significant development" by the state government, involves building a plant that will burn non-recyclable household and commercial waste, to supplement the power output from the Mt Piper Power Station. To be developed by Energy Australia and Re-Group, the project is expected to create 140 construction jobs, and generate electricity for 40,000 NSW homes.
Blue Mountains Greens councillor Brent Hoare is concerned about up to 100 B-double trucks transporting waste along the Great Western Highway and Bells Line of Road each day.
"It's absolutely the concern of everybody who lives along the highway from Lapstone to Lithgow, would have concerns that the road is being built for a road train of trucks for the incinerator," he said, referring to the proposed highway duplication between Katoomba and Lithgow.
Katoomba resident and Charles Sturt University road safety researcher, Sarah Redshaw was equally concerned about extra trucks on the highway.
"Trucks are a constant safety threat and effect lifestyles, making cycling and other forms of transport more difficult, intimidating locals and creating noise and pollution," she said.
"In 2018 there were eight serious injuries involving heavy vehicles in the Blue Mountains. The threat is always there with the pressure put on drivers to cover distances in less time."
An Re-Group spokesman said: "We have estimated at most this to be 100 truck movements. Under typical conditions, we expect this number could be closer to 60 truck movements daily."
Cr Hoare was also worried about the ash generated by the incineration and where it will be blown, especially with the Coxs River nearby.
"The resultant ash byproducts have to go somewhere," he said.
"It's ridiculous to be imperiling our water source by piling huge mounds of toxic ash next door."
The project spokesman said: "Ash that's created in the process of burning refuse-derived fuel would be deposited and protected within a fully-lined repository. This repository will be built and operated in accordance with best-practice requirements set by the NSW Environment Protection Authority, to safeguard both groundwater and the Coxs River."
Cr Hoare said this project sent the wrong message to the waste industry.
"We want to create more incentives to create less waste," he said. "We need to stop using waste that's not recyclable. Offer incentives to manufacturers to use packaging that can be recycled.
"It's being deceptively categorised as renewable energy."
Cr Hoare intends to put in a personal submission and raise the issue as a matter or urgency at the next council meeting.
The Colong Foundation for Wilderness is also concerned about the project.
"It is laughable this project will receive subsidies and a rubber stamp from the NSW government because it has been labelled a 'green energy project'. Waste-to-energy facilities have been proven to have a greater carbon footprint per unit of energy created than oil, gas or coal," said Wilson Harris from the Colong Foundation.
"The toxic gases and ash produced through the incineration process will poison local communities and environments, which is especially egregious given it is on the doorstep of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and its townships."
The Re-Group spokesman said: "Emissions associated with burning refuse derived fuel is less than fossil fuel powered facilities and the NSW grid average.
"The technology we are proposing has been used around the world, including in the centre of many leading European cities including Paris, Copenhagen and Berlin."
The public can make submissions by February 28 at: https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/11541.