ENVIRONMENTAL Treatment Solutions (ETS) has broken its silence on a chemical incident at its Blayney facility last month, holding an information session in a bid to allay residents’ concerns about waste treated on site.
But not everyone was convinced the company had taken appropriate steps to ensure a similar mishap did not happen again.
About 20 residents and neighbouring business owners turned out for the meeting, including representatives from St Joseph’s Primary School, which was evacuated in response to the incident, and Blayney’s mayor and general manager.
ETS director Jock Germany said the incident on February 27, which also hospitalised nine people, was the result of human error and an “incompatible waste [being] added to the mix.”
“The incident should never have happened on our site,” he said.
St Joseph’s principal Gerard Davies said it was the second time the school had been disrupted by the company’s operations, the first being in August last year when the school was forced into lockdown after a fire broke out at the ETS facility.
Mr Davies said classroom teaching had been disrupted and parents had raised health concerns about the ETS site.
“It has impacted on our teaching and learning,” Mr Davies said.
“I find it hard to believe it won’t happen again.”
“It has impacted on our teaching and learning ... I find it hard to believe it won’t happen again"
In response, ETS said they were not able to guarantee there would be no further incidents at their Blayney site.
The only assurance they could give was that they would undertake further training and education of their staff.
Mr Davies also took issue with the proximity of the facility to the school.
“I just think some businesses should not be within 500 metres of a school,” he said.
Harry Marshall, who lives near the ETS facility, said he had not been contacted by the company following the incident, despite their insistence all neighbouring homes and businesses had been spoken to.
“On Thursday night the smell was unbearable in my home,” Mr Marshall said of the incident.
“I left home before the incident, I [needed] medication and I couldn’t get it.
“You can evacuate businesses and people can go home, I can’t go home.
“I think its unacceptable, that’s my opinion of it.”
Chris McAlister, whose children attend St Joseph’s, asked: “If council offered you a new building, would you consider moving.”
Mr Germany replied: “We would consider moving.”
Residents also questioned the type of waste treated at the facility, given the ETS website states the company has the resources and experience to assist in the handling of radioactive waste streams.
This was denied by Mr Germany.
“We categorically do not treat radioactive waste,” he said.
The facility treats waste that is unable to be disposed of by landfill, Mr Germany said, offering oil and grease as examples.
Mr Germany said the reason why they had not spoken to the media about the incident was because the company wanted to “front-up directly in person to the affected area”.
“We had a responsibility to ensure an accurate statement before making comment,” he said.
ETS established the Blayney facility in 2009 and since May 2013 there have been four incidents at the site requiring the attention of the Environment Protection Authority.