Australian multi-utility provider Flow Systems has agreed to purchase the 2,000ha former Kurri Kurri smelter site from current owners, Hydro Aluminium. Hydro Aluminium has been preparing the site for sale since its closure in 2014, managing demolition, remediation and rezoning activities at the site.
Flow takes immediate responsibility for the development and transition of the site while Hydro will continue the demolition and remediation of the smelter and surrounding land, which is expected to take another three to five years to complete.
The formal ownership of land will be transferred to Flow Systems in stages, as parts of the site are remediated and validated by an independent auditor.
Hydro is and remains responsible for the remediation of the former smelter site. Any aspects of the site that relate to its former use, including demolition, remediation and decontamination, are the responsibility of Hydro. The total demolition and remediation program is expected to take another three to five years to complete.
Demolition activities are already under way and activities are reported regularly to the Community Reference Group, the minutes of which are made available on the Regrowth Kurri Kurri website. Images from the demolition works can also be seen on the Regrowth Kurri Kurri YouTube channel.
Council granted development consent for the demolition of the remaining below ground infrastructure, as well as the tall stacks, in May 2018. At this stage it’s anticipated that the tall stacks will come down around mid-2019. Demolition on the site should be completed in 2020.
There are a few areas making up a quite small proportion of the Hydro land that contain contaminants. Hydro is committed to managing site contaminants so that they do not represent a risk to human health or the environment and continues to work in consultation with the Environment Protection Authority to manage the remediation of these areas.
A containment cell is an engineered structure with multiple barrier layers, specifically designed to encapsulate and lock away waste material, prevent water from entering, and to minimise and capture any gas or leachate (liquid) generated.
The concept design for the containment cell has layers of clay, high density engineered plastic sheeting, sand and rock, placed with filter fabric in between, to form a barrier that stops water from entering the cell, and stops any leachate from leaving the cell, except through a designed drainage layer that if required, allows the leachate to be collected and treated.
Containment cells are current best-practice for the management of many wastes and contaminated materials around the world.
The on-site containment cell is the remediation option considered to be the best alternative considering cost, risk, legacy, timeframe, environmental, and corporate social responsibility factors. It allows Hydro to maintain responsibility for the cell into the future, while other options had varying degrees of uncertainty.
A fully engineered containment cell will be built on site to house contaminated soils and non-recyclable waste materials. Following a significant period of validation and performance testing by Hydro and its consultants, where management requirements will be assessed, ownership will be transferred to Flow Systems and will be monitored and managed in perpetuity.
Ongoing monitoring and management includes routinely checking the capping integrity, checking for leachate in the cells leachate collection system, and arranging for it to be removed for treatment by a licenced contractor. The NSW EPA will oversee the ongoing management by Flow Systems, and this will be appropriately regulated.
Flow Systems has experience as a long-term owner, operator and manager of assets, which includes water and waste water and electricity infrastructure. Flow will also take on the long-term management of the biodiversity offset area which forms part of the site.
Any identified potential risks have been considered in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be examined and approved by the Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E). Impacts such as noise, dust and traffic are described in the EIS along with mitigation measures to control them. The mitigation measures to address the potential risks will be implemented in accordance with a Demolition and Remediation Environmental Management Plans, which will be prepared in consultation with CMA Contracting, DP&E and the EPA prior to commencing these activities.
The site currently houses several tenants, including the Kurri Kurri Speedway. Hydro acknowledges the contribution of the Speedway to the local community and after the closure decision, Hydro has continued to support the Speedway with additional leases.
The future of the Speedway will need to be discussed between the new owner, Flow Systems, and the Speedway committee once the ownership of the relevant land parcel is transferred to Flow Systems.
There are a number of ways to stay informed about and provide input into what is happening and what is being planned at the site.
- A community information email address firstname.lastname@example.org
- A community telephone line 1800 066 243 has been set up for community enquiries.
- Letters and newsletters which will be sent to neighbours and other interested stakeholders,
- A Community Reference Group (CRG) has been set up which meets regularly and acts as a liaison point between the community and the project. The group is made up of community representatives from Council, community groups, business groups and local residents.