Environment Waikato has renewed consents for a Frankton asphalt plant to continue discharging contaminants to air.
Neighbours of the Fulton Hogan Waikato plant who opposed the application had complained of unpleasant odours and health risks from pollution from the site. Seven submissions were received from Community Health, Mighty River Power and neighbours.
The consent application was to replace an existing consent granted in 1996. The applicant recognised there had been odours off site related to emissions and had investigated and implemented a number of measures to isolate and manage the possible sources, the Hearing Committee heard. It had stopped bitumen recycling, installed absorption filters on storage tank vents, installed a system to capture emissions and stopped storing “cut-back” bitumen.
The company accepted most of the conditions recommended but did not consider some were necessary. The managing director said renewal of the consent was critical to the company’s involvement in the Region, was environmentally sound and economically essential for continued business operation.
The Planning and Environmental Manager said evidence conclusively demonstrated there were no health effects caused by the plant’s operation. One of the areas identified as a probable source of odour was the storage of cut-back bitumen, so the site now only stored a maximum of 2000 litres compared to 25,000 litres it used to store.
A specialist in public health medicine said that emissions from the plant would not have any adverse health effects on neighbours. For some, the smell might induce nausea, sweating and other reactions but this did not indicate chemicals had entered the bloodstream, she said.
An environmental consultant said all compounds analysed were below relevant ambient guidelines and should not cause any health effects. The plant was operated in a satisfactory manner and emissions did not represent a danger to public health.
A representative for one neighbour said the couple did not suffer effects or odours from the site until 18 months ago. The couple felt their health was at risk, if not already severely affected by pollution and they believed they would be unable to sell their house because of the emissions. It was more than just a nuisance and possibly life threatening, he said.
Other neighbours gave evidence about their concern for their health, one being advised by her doctor to move, and another concerned about the effects on his child.
An air quality scientist said the organic compounds were well below recognised guidelines, while the level of annoyance from odour appeared high.
Granting the consents, the Committee said the plant was appropriately located in an industrial area but having nearby residential properties proved difficult. Claims of life threatening effects were not supported by the evidence, the substances were not known to be the cause of respiratory effects and discharges were most unlikely to cause health problems.
In making its decision the Committee noted that it was sympathetic to the distress some neighbours experience when they detect discharges from the site, however the neighbours could be confident, following the investigations undertaken, that health effects were most unlikely to be caused by discharges from the site.
The Committee also noted the proactive way the company had responded to odour complaints and the various measures it had put in place to minimise the potential for off-site effects. The company was also willing to do further monitoring of effects, even though it did not consider it necessary.
The Committee granted the consents for a 10 year period, saying the recommended conditions provide a suitable mechanism to require the applicant to undertake further works in future if additional modifications were necessary.