Our community concerns about asphalt

 

Summary

  1. Can I get sick from continual exposure to hot asphalt fumes?
  2. Have Allen’s considered the impacts to the adjacent playing fields
  3. Did Boral (Allens) Asphalt seriously uderestimate pollution by using the wrong weather data?
  4. Noise: The Boral (Allen's) application admits that noise pollution approaches levels set by the State
  5. Will the benzene and related fallout (including arsenic) contaminate our rainwater tanks?
  6. Loss of property values
  7. Is the plant really “state of the art”?
  8. Will the plant disrupt traffic?
  9. Will the benzene and related fallout (including arsenic) contaminate our water ways
  10. Quality of life issues – will the asphalt plant degrade our quality of life?:
  11. Can some agency do a baseline sampling
  12. What is the health risk of benzene and what levels, if any, are safe?
  13. What are the details of monitoring the pollution (benzene and arsenic) after plant construction
  14. What is the position of the EPA on arsenic fallout?
  15. Have residents in the fallout area/ zone been notified/ contacted directly?
  16. Why did the Boston Health board step in and stop a proposed Asphalt plant near residents in Boston? see US Health board stops plant
  17. Has the Boral (Allen's) application considered the safest type of fuel (using some type of gas rather than oil), and is the stack height the maximum possible within economic reason?
  18. Has Boral considered mobile asphalt plants?
  19. Why does Boral submit the Asphalt application under the name of Allens, when Boral have bought Allens?
 
-Can I get sick from continual exposure to hot asphalt fumes?
There is a growing list of scientific papers that conclude exposure to hot asphalt emissions can significantly increase the incidence of many types of cancers above background.
 
There are no studies on children near asphalt plants, although there are various reasons (age, metabolic rate, body proportions, activity levels, growth rates) why children can be more susceptible to carcinogens than adults.
 
Like many long term studies on cancer, it may take a generation or so before we are aware of the full consequences and dangers of exposure to certain chemicals from asphalt plants. We expect the evidence for asphalt to lag several decades behind that for cigarette smoking (only recently did "big tobacco" stop refuting the health risks from smoking). Many new scientific papers now find a connection between cancer and asphalt, but some of the early and some current studies do not detect associations or strong associations.
 
It is universally agreed that exposure to chemicals in asphalt causes cancer in animals. Components of asphalt fumes, including benzene are highly carinogenic (we even know how these chemicals biologically induce cancer). Overall, the fact that we are now seeing evidence of increased cancer risk in humans from a number of studies on asphalt is troubling and points to even stronger associations as populations age and we get more data. 
 
So if some papers say yes, and some no, about asphalt causing cancer in humans, which do we go with? Some studies say several fold increase, some say 10-50% increase in cancer rates. What do we do? Toss a coin, take a bet about our children's future? If we bet no effect, and find out that these negative papers were funded by asphalt industries, then we've failed to take a precautionary approach for our children. If we bet on low levels of cancer rates, then how many collateral deaths are worth it for the sake of having an asphalt plant close by?
 
Overall, all agree that asphalt fumes contain strongly carcinogenic material (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs). The disagreements seem to be over the level of exposure that causes a specific and public health risk. This is why the issue of still air over Kunda Park especially in winter is such an important issue, as the still air and temperature inversions will greatly magnify the concentration of carcinogens, and their risk. 
 
Not safe at any level?  

Agencies set "safe levels" such as 5 parts per billion in drinking water for benzene (benzene is a carcenogen produced by asphalt plants). However, biological researches are starting to understand there is no such thing as safe levels for some carcinogens like benzene because some carcinogens at any level can damage cells.  

Considering that the consequence could be very high (i.e. cancers and health), it is surprising that our government authorities have not undertaken a comprehensive health assessment of this proposal, including an up to date review of the literature, including epidemiological, biochemical, pharmacological, and molecular biology data, and have not sought expert advice from current leaders/scientists in the area (eg, the Boston Health Department and Boston Researchers like Prof. Mike McClean). This sort of review probably should be required under council's "duty of care".

Indeed, with this awareness of impact to health, some residents have asked Sunshine Coast Regional Council to exercise their duty of care to the residents and children and protect them from avoidable exposure to harmful carcinogens, in particular those emanating from the proposed Kunda Park Asphalt Plant. They have asked that council undertake a site specific health risk assessment for the community, for food shops, and commercial workers, and include the issue of temperature inversions in the study.
 
Tupper is a medical doctor with a divinity degree. He speaks about the medical and ethical threats an asphalt plant, quarry, and cement plant pose to the community.
 
Tupper Morehead
 
-Have Allen’s considered the impacts to the adjacent playing fields, especially at night during calm weather. New scientific data show hot asphalt fumes cause cancer in workers. Are children at even greater risk? The Queensland State Environmental Protection Agency also seem to ask about the adjacent playing field and the impact on it from the Asphalt plant.
News: recent acquisition by council of the block between the football fields and the proposed asphalt site likely means the football club will expand westwards, and abut the asphalt plant.
 
 
 
-Did Boral (Allens) Asphalt seriously uderestimate pollution by using the wrong weather data?
Boral’s application used weather data from an EPA weather station at the Mountain Creek Primary School to model effects of pollution at Kunda park. The Mountain Creek site is very different from Kunda Park. First, it is only 2 or so km from the sea, and has unobstructed moderate SE and NE sea breezes (there are no hills or mountains between the weather station and the sea). By contrast, the Kunda Park location is more than 6 km from the sea and importantly, is boxed in by hills on three sides as barriers to the prevailing winds. By using data from Mountain Creek we are most concerned that the pollution analyses substantially underestimates pollution fallout at Kunda Park.
 
Also, the Boral (Allen’s) application say temperature inversions are rare and don't have to be considered. (Temperature inversions happen when there is low wind, and cold air is tapped under higher warm air). Local residents however say that still conditions and temperature inversions are common in winter for Kunda Park. Temperature inversions cause pollution to be trapped and held in the neighbourhood.
 
Another consequence of the hills on three sides is that pollution from the smoke stack may actually directly intersect/outfall on the houses on the hills as a concentrated stream, and this is not considered in the application.
 
Residents are concerned that should actual weather data from Kunda Park be used, considering the lower wind speeds, the temperature inversions, and smoke intersecting with hills, then we would find that the pollution from the plant would exceed "safe" state limits. Similarly, with more realistic wind data, we are concerned that odour pollution, in actuality, will exceed State levels.
 
Note: The Allen’s application states there are limitations to the study of weather produced on their behalf by consultants (Katestone), namely:
- the limitation due to use of mathematic model and synthesised metrological data rather than actual weather data at Kunda Park
-the limitation that weather and air monitored at Mountain Creek needs to be representative of that at Kunda Park.
-the limitation that all numerical models will be associated with some degree of error, and models are not able to deal with complex conditons (editor: as exist at Kunda Park because of hills?)
 Kunda Park is bounded on 3 sides by hills, but weather data used in the application come from the exposed coastal site of mountain ck.
 
 
Kunda Park is a boxed in valley 
 
Kunda Park is a boxed in valley 
 
 
Actual temperature inversion at Kunda valley (courtesy of local Diddillibah resident Rowan)
Residents say they are frequent
 
 
 
smoke plume (actually a fire) used here to demonstrate that the interaction between smoke plums with hills will be complex, and will include direct outfall on the hills such as Buderium, Kuliun and Diddillibah.
 
smoke plume (not an asphalt plant) illustrating the ways hills can receive a concentrated fallout during conditions of temperature inversion
 
-Noise: The Boral (Allen's) application admits that noise pollution approaches levels set by the State
 
Allen's say:  “the predicted low frequency noise emissions from the dryer are close to exceeding the criteria and it is recommended that low frequency noise is monitored to ensure that compliance is maintained as the plant ages”
 
Update: noise is "amplified" by temperature inversions, click here
 
We are concerned that the State noise standards could only be met only by Allen’s selecting certain sets of weather and wind speed data. For example, the application used a wind speed of 3 m/sec as the “adverse” weather conditions for transport of noise. We are concerned that at higher wind speeds, as will occur to for reasonable time periods, the plant will routinely disturb the sleep of residents (the plant will operate 24 hrs a day).
 
We are also concerned that the noise specifically from the dryers and oil heater was not given sufficient discussion and detail, as these seem to be most problematic sources of noise pollution in other asphalt plants.
 
Noise from trucks (some say 1000 a day) may also disturb sleeping residents. Presently Kunda park neighbours at Diddillibah and elsewhere are already disturbed by trucks and other noises from Kunda park at night, and there is concern that more traffic will add to the existing disturbances. (Night noises from Kunda park will be uploaded). See council's ability to ensure compliance with noise licenses.
photo from Allen's website
 
 
  

Important update on noise:

 
Residents kept awake at night by Allen's asphalt plant at Cooroy
22 May 2007
By Nicola Kerkenezov
Ringtail Creek residents are tossing and turning night after night. The small group of neighbours, who live in a rural setting north-west of Cooroy, are up in arms about noise coming from nearby Allen's Asphalt, off Ringtail Creek Drive.
 
The plant runs 24-hours a day and despite reports that the company has introduced noise-reduction measures, residents like Anthony Leigh and Jo (who does not wish to use her last name) said the problem was only getting worse. Jo lives about 3km from the site and said noise notably increased around Christmas. "We want to know where was the community consultation," she said. "The noise is so great at night, it is very noticeable. "It never goes away and goes on and on and on ... like a train going past."
 
Meanwhile, further up the valley at Forest Acres, Mr Leigh said the disturbance from the plant at night was so great that it was seriously disrupting his sleep and could be affecting wildlife. "Who would have thought that we would have to wear earplugs and close all the windows to get a decent night's sleep when we bought property in this beautiful rural setting," he said. "I suspect that this (noise) is also impacting on our local fauna. "I have noticed that the dawn chorus of birds has decreased dramatically and even nocturnal native visitors, which once delighted us, appear to be diminishing."
 
Noosa Council's senior environmental health officer David McNicoll said he was aware of the noise complaints but said sound tests so far indicated that the manufacturing plant's levels were within "normal" ranges. "An independent consultant has conducted one test and is due to report on a second in a few weeks," he said. "On the surface it is looking like (Allen's) is complying. "If the noise increases beyond normal levels (36 decibels during the day or 34 decibels at night), under their operating license, we could take action."
 
But local residents beg to differ, arguing that the plant noise was so disturbing it was becoming a health hazard. "There is no pattern to the problem," Mr Leigh said. "It is there one night and not the next. "We don't want the plant shut down ... we just want to be consulted." Allen's Asphalt general manager David Smale said he was aware of the complaints and said that the company was consulting with residents on the matter but refused to comment further.
 

Are breaches to licenses and regulations dealt with promptly?

 
Should Allen’s Asphalt application be accepted, and the plant built, will or can our local and state agencies ensure compliance without delays?

 

Compliance with set noise levels.

Maroochy Council, as all other State Councils, tends to be reticent to prosecute companies over possible breaches of noise licences. The reluctance seems to stem from the real legal problems of identifying which companies are making the noise, and apportioning levels of contribution. From past experience, and due to legal complications, local council prefer to work with noisy companies to get change of work practice or noise barriers installed, but, despite good effort from council, this is a long drawn out process, and the results in the past from Kunda Park have been a compromise between commercial operational interests of the company, and disturbance for the residence (significant noise reductions were achieved, but residents are still being disturbed).

 

The bottom line, from past experience at Kunda Park, is that issuing a noise licence to a company does not ensure you will not be disturbed during the day or night, and, from past experience again at Kunda Park, companies have exceeded the conditions of their noise permits and continue to do so despite signing off on EPA noise licences specifying limits, and despite complaints by residents.

 

Enforcement of compliance with air and water pollution.

A google search of the web did not return cases of prosecution in the sunshine coast for air pollution. Enquires will be made to the Maroochy Council/EPA on this matter, but it could also be that councils/EPA prefer consultation to court action regarding compliance for other environmental licences.

Again, issuing an air or water pollution licence probably/likely does not guarantee compliance in real time, and residents should perhaps expect (from past experiences) that when breaches occur, rectification (or partial rectification) could be a very long drawn out process.
-Will the benzene and related fallout (including arsenic) contaminate our rainwater tanks? Much of Diddillibah has no town water, and residents rely on harvesting rainwater. H2S, Benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel, Chromium and Beryllium from the asphalt plant will contaminate, to some degree, their rainwater supplies. The rate of accumulation could be high is there are frequent periods of light rain fall. Neither Allen’s application, or the EPA’s input to the process, considers this problem and health issue.. The EPA have asked if the pollution will contaminate the rainwater harvested at the site of the plant, but not in tanks of urban residents.
 
 
 
-Loss of property values
Residents are concerned that the construction of a highly visible asphalt plant (one with the 20m+ smoking chimney stack) in their region, with strong odour smells, will reduce the value of residential properties. Some studies in the US suggest a greater than 50% drop in property values near to asphalt plants, and local Maroochy real estate professionals wonder if it will be possible to sell houses that are close to the factory.
Note: If 1000 houses lose on an average of 20% of their value, this corresponds to an economic damage to the region of about one hundred million dollars. If the plant is worth say $10 million value to the region, then, in the first year, we have a 10:1 loss to our local economy 
 
-Is the plant really “state of the art”?
The following question whether the proposal is really “state of the art”:
 
Queensland EPA say the aromatic hydrocarbons (ed: cancer agents) emissions look high compared to an average type of plant in Australia.
 
Specifically EPA say to Allens:

Issue 7: Emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) reported as BaP from the dryer appears to be high. The PAH (BaP) emission rate estimated for the proposed plant is 153 pg/m3 (see Table 10 of the Katestone Report) The measured emission of PAH from a similar plant in NSW (located at Greenacre) is less than 0 3pg/m3 (Boral Asphalt Plant Redbank Plains MCU DA Application) Also, based on the NPI emission factors for oil and gas fired batch asphalt plants as reported in the following document(http //www npi iov au/handbooks/approved handbooks/pubs/fasphalt pdf), the emissions look very high as compared to an average type of plant

 
Allen’s say their plant will release H2S, Benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel, Chromium and Beryllium which will deposit on neighbours – would state of the art plants allow this?
 
Parts of the plant, including parts of the conveyer belt, the storage bins, the trucks etc are NOT covered. All these should be covered to be state of the art.
 
Noise levels under favourable conditions approach state levels. State of the art should produce much lower levels.
 
The plant will use both gas and heating oil. State of the art should use only gas.
 
 
 
-Will the plant disrupt traffic? The council have asked Allen’s to supply additional information about truck volumes.
 
junction of Maroochydore Road and Pike St
 
-Will the benzene and related fallout (including arsenic) contaminate our water ways, particularly Eudlo Creek, and particularly considering benzene is heavier than air? No agency seems to have asked this question. Eudlo Creek is already considered as a stressed and degraded estuarine system. Will the Asphalt plant result in more degradation?
 
 
 
-Quality of life issues – will the asphalt plant degrade our quality of life?:

The sunshine coast has clean air and appears free from smoke stack industries. This is important for those who live here and those who visit as tourists. Some residents are concerned that the encroachment of smoke stack industries close to these living and tourist areas is a threat to the present quality of life, and that these types of industries are incompatible with the life style and tourist values of the region.

An existing Allens/Boral asphalt plant at Lytton Road, Lytton

 

-Can some agency do a baseline sampling of the air and environment before and after the plant commences operations to establish levels of benzene and arsenic in the environment?

 
-What is the health risk of benzene and what levels, if any, are safe? "The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs: US Department of Health and Human services, Centeres for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/benzene/basics/facts.asp. Some scientists think benzene, because of the way it interacts with cells, is unsafe at ANY level. Also see report by the Amercian Cancer Society on benzene.
 
-What are the details of monitoring the pollution (benzene and arsenic) after plant construction, its concentration, and the distances it will travel? What systems will be in place to  alert and shut down the plant if emissions exceed agency and environmental license levels? One US citizen action site claims "Even worse, the study concludes that benzene would be deposited at dangerous levels 1.8 miles away and that arsenic would be deposited at dangerous levels 2.17 miles away". http://www.bredl.org/press/2007/Young-McQueenasphaltplant.htm
 
-What is planned for the block marked "uban" (with yellow arrow we added)? The diagram is taken from Allen's application. Is this a site for a proposed aged people home? If so, should aged people nearby with expected respiratory challenges be considered in more depth? Should we consult Health experts (see page on Boston Health Board).
Diagram from Allen's application. Download and view at higher magnification for details
 
 
 
 
 
     
     

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