Senate releases report on ash dam rehabilitation

SENATE: Senator Rex Patrick, Christine McDonald and Senator Anne Urquhart at the Public Hearing at Central Oval in September 2018.
SENATE: Senator Rex Patrick, Christine McDonald and Senator Anne Urquhart at the Public Hearing at Central Oval in September 2018.

The Senate's newly-released Rehabilitation of Mining and Resources Projects report has called for the development of national standards for the management and rehabilitation of power station ash dams.

The Senate's Environment and Communications References Committee focused on the lessons learnt from the closure of the Augusta Power Stations, particularly looking into the concerns regarding dust issues.

In addition to the request for national standards to be developed between federal, state and territory governments, the Australian Greens made two other recommendations for the rehabilitation of power station ash dams.

The second recommendation entails that all power station operators must provide adequate financial assurance to state and territory regulators, guaranteeing costs will not be passed onto taxpayers.

The Greens also recommended that the Commonwealth government investigates the option of using ash dams as a secondary resource.

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick said Port Augusta residents know the effects of ash dam neglect "all too well".

"Both federal and state governments need to work with industry to ensure the environmental damage and negative health effects experienced in Port Augusta are not repeated in other communities across the country," Mr Patrick said.

The report highlighted that Port Augusta's 273-hectare ash storage dam was one of the first sites in Australia to enter the closure and rehabilitation phase.

The Senate held a hearing in Port Augusta in September 2018, discussing ash dam remediation with representatives from the Port Augusta City Council, Flinders Power and the Environment Protection Authority, as well as the community.

One community member said the lives of locals "changed forever" after the dust incident on December 30, 2016.

"This community was battered and endured a horrific event, which to say the least was preventable and should never have occurred," they said. "The dust was never-ending, burning your face and body as we tried to go about our daily business, but our concerns were falling on deaf ears."

Flinders Power CEO Peter Georgaris admitted the company sincerely regrets the "unpleasant impact" on residents as a result of unprecedented weather events. However, Mr Georgaris stated Flinders Power has met, and will continue to meet, all obligations.

"Pleasingly, independent ecologists and agronomists believe that this is achievable given sufficient rain over time," he said. "In our view, the rehabilitation of the entire site will produce a world-class outcome."