ChemCentre’s Manager Project Development, Dr Silvia Black, said the field trip to trial sites at Ellenbrook and Jandakot provided an opportunity for regulators, other Government agencies and industry to come together to discuss issues of concern.
“A lot of work has been done in the past couple of decades to assess how good by-products are for beneficial uses,” Silvia said. “Some have proven to be very effective in improving the quality of soils for agriculture and enabling the sandy soils of the Swan Coastal Plain to retain phosphorus, which is important to prevent nutrient run-off to waterways.
“But the research has not previously looked at the long-term safety of using these by-products. The tools currently available in Australia for the long-term environmental impact assessment of by-products are very limited, so we brought into WA Leaching Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF) tools that have been adopted by the EU and US EPA.”
In March this year, ChemCentre began a research project using LEAF tools to help Western Australian authorities and industry assess the environmental impact of using waste-derived materials and by-products. Silvia, who leads this project, said the recent field trip enabled the project’s industry sponsors to see where the by-products are being used and to share information.
“Really, it’s about transparency and open communication for all parties concerned,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to share experience and knowledge.
“By-products have potential uses in tackling issues relevant to rapid development and urbanisation on the Swan Coastal Plain. They could reduce environmental degradation, help make land use more sustainable, and alleviate concerns about surface and groundwater integrity.
“But regulators need to understand how these products will behave in the environment in the long term. The LEAF tools, which combine modelling and laboratory tools help overcome that hurdle. These tools will ultimately be part of a regulatory framework for classifying by-products, enabling government and industry to be better informed.”
The ChemCentre-led LEAF project is funded by the Minerals Research Institute of WA (MRIWA) and industry partners, and has the backing of state government agencies (Department of Environment Regulation, Office of the Environment Protection Authority and Department of Water). Titled ‘Establishing Leaching Environmental Impact Assessment Tools in the Development of a WA Framework for By-product Re-use and Classification’, the project will run for two years in collaboration with the Energy Research Centre of The Netherlands and MBS Environmental.
For more information on the LEAF tools contact Dr Silvia Black on 9422 9964.