Category Archives: Waste & Recycling

EMRC Talks Rubbish on Hazelmere Incinerator Plans

Guest post by Hazelmere resident Peter Graham

Last Thursday I was once again a guest of the East Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC) with another information session for their proposed WWTE Plant in Hazelmere. Previous attempts to woo the public have failed, resulting in the EMRC being forced by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to carry out a full, Public Environmental Review (PER) of the project. This time around was a little different. Previously the proposal was to build a Pyrolysis plant yet now there is no mention of the term “pyrolysis” in the promotional literature. Confusingly, this isn’t the first name change for this type of operation. Back in the days of “plain-speak” they were called Incinerators. When that term (and the air) became toxic to the public they were renamed as Pyrolysis Plants (based on the technique of heating materials in the absence of oxygen). After another public revolt it has been repackaged as WWTE, or Wood Waste to Energy.

On the surface, the PER document is relatively inoffensive. It reads more easily than the previous version although you still might need a degree in chemistry to fully understand it. The proposal seems to be rational and well argued. The EMRC has a vast stockpile of wood waste, mainly from building projects that it wants to “recover” the energy from by cooking it in a kiln and then using the gasses generated to run gas turbines that will then generate electricity. Scrubbers in the smoke stack would extract almost all of the toxins generated and several thousand houses would receive Green electricity from a renewable resource, a resource that would otherwise be dumped in landfill.

As usual, the sting is in the fine print….or the bits that didn’t even make it in to the fine print.

A lesson in history and hair-splitting

The EMRC had promised residents some years earlier that they would not build an incinerator in Hazelmere. The EMRC now claims that this is not an incinerator as it does not burn or combust material: it gasifies it. This really is a matter of semantics. The process heats wood to around 600 degrees in the absence of oxygen, producing a flammable gas that is then combusted (aka incinerated) in a gas turbine. Even though it is a two stage process it still means that the wood is burnt/combusted/incinerated.

Justification of a Burn or Bury Policy

The EMRC has indicated that they have a “large existing market for wood chip fines and a smaller market for wood chip”. At the meeting a commercial chicken grower spoke effusively about the value and quality of wood fines (the finer particles after the wood stock has been ground) supplied to his business by the EMRC. My understanding is that it is the coarse chips which the EMRC is having difficulty selling. A logical step would be to run the coarse chips through the grinder a second time, thus generating more fines to fill the “large existing market”. There are also many other uses for the coarse wood chips. These include chipboard, structural beams, mulch, and soil stabilisation. Despite all this, EMRC Chairman Alan Pilgrim is quoted in this week’s Echo Newspaper as saying that there is no market for shredded wood and that if the plant did not proceed then the only alternative was landfill. This burn or bury policy is a tragic indictment of the EMRC and a far cry from the reuse/recycle policies it once championed.

The Waste Hierarchy

It is a requirement of both the EPA and Waste Authority that the waste sourced as input for waste to energy plants must target genuine residual waste that cannot feasibly be reused or recycled. The EPA and Waste Authority support the Waste Hierarchy which classifies the treatment of waste from prevention as the most desirable down to dumping in landfill as the least. Waste Hierarchies usually look like variations of the one shown below.

Waste hierarchy

Energy recovery is the process being touted by the EMRC. This is one of the least favoured options because it destroys the resource so that it can never be used again.

A Detailed Assessment of Air Quality and Movement for Public Safety

The EMRC states that they have carried out detailed modelling of air movements and air quality to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those living around the plant. This is in fact true…..except that they did the modelling at their Red Hill site, a breezy area on top of the Darling Scarp, surrounded by bushland. Red Hill is 16 Km from Hazelmere which is located on the Swan Coastal Plain, has dense residential housing, and has frequent temperature inversions in winter which trap and concentrate pollutants at ground level. Illogically, the EMRC believes that air movements in Hazelmere will be the same as they are at Red Hill. Their unwillingness to carry out a detailed local study implies  just how little the EMRC cares about the health of Hazelmere residents.

What is Already in the Air

Hazelmere and surrounds already bears a large burden of polluting industries in the form of several brickworks, plasterboard manufacturers, and a rendering plant, not to mention the significant flight path from Perth Airport. When introducing any new polluting industry to an area it is important to assess what is already in the air so the cumulative effects are known. But the EMRC report states “The project timetables have not been sufficient to enable background air quality data to be obtained at the specific proposal site”. Local residents should not be exposed to risk simply because the EMRC has not allotted sufficient time to assess the air pollutants and the damage which they might incur.

And so on…..

There are a raft of other inconsistencies in the report and presentation from a lack of detail on how feedstock is going to be sorted to avoid contaminants to the ease with which feed for the plant can be changed from clean wood to mixed waste with a works application to the EPA. The EMRC asks us to trust that it will act in our best interests however they seem to have no interest in earning that trust by being forthright, clear and thorough in planning this project.

Many residents in Hazelmere, Guildford, Midland, South Guildford, Bassendean and Woodbridge are just sick of being used as a dumping ground for the waste and excesses of the rest of Perth. Yes, we are all part of the problem when it comes to generating waste. Sadly, the imagination of the organisations that we employ to manage this waste can’t seem to stretch beyond the idea of Burn or Bury.

The EPA will shortly be considering the EMRC’s application to build this incinerator in Hazelmere. If you would like to view the Public Environmental Review written by the EMRC for this Project you can find it here:

If you feel that it is not appropriate for this plant to be built in Hazelmere then you can lodge a submission with the EPA regarding this through the same web page.

Submissions close on 3 June, 2014.

Peter Graham, Hazelmere resident


Clean Up Australia Day 2014

Thanks to everyone who took part in our Clean Up Australia day in March 2014.

It was a new record for people and rubbish – 66 people took part and we collected over 24 bags of recycling and 32 bags of rubbish!

Not to mention 1 fax machine, 2 shopping trolleys, 1 car battery, 4 tyres, 2 gas bottles, containers of engine oil, and mounds of fencing wire from the Helena River.

A special thanks to Lindsay Baxter and the Guildford Association for co-hosting again. And thanks to Ian and Caroline for leading the South Guildford team along West Parade, which yielded the majority of new bulky items.

As always, thanks to the Guildford Primary school community and students for taking part and the Guildford Bakery for making delicious post clean up scones 🙂

Helping your hens survive the heat

The Chook Chronicles: Heat Stress in Backyard Hens

Although the weather seems not as bad as it was last summer, average temperatures are still 1 – 2°C higher than the long term average, and heat waves are tending to be hotter and longer. Tragically, quite a few friends and neighbours from Guildford and surrounding suburbs have recounted the terrible upset of losing hens to heat stress.

Summer’s not over yet, so now is a good time to review what you can do to prevent deaths due to heat stroke, and to reduce heat stress in your backyard hens.

The body temperature of chickens is higher and more variable than that of mammals; in adult hens it ranges from 40.6 – 41.7°C. Smaller breeds tend to have a higher body temperature than larger ones, probably due to metabolic rate. Activity increases body temperature, and chickens that are growing or producing a lot of eggs will also have a higher average body temperature.

A hen’s high average body temperature makes it easier to lose heat into the surrounding air, but like humans, this happens most easily when air temperature is well below body temperature.

The ideal air temperature range for chickens at which their body functions best (the ‘thermal neutral zone’) is 18 – 24°C! Hens therefore begin to experience a degree of heat stress above 24°C. Just like people though, the temperature range that chooks can stand depends on the length of exposure, and what protection they have.

Birds do not have sweat glands, so they pant to evaporate moisture for cooling, and to draw into their air sacs deep in the body to cool it. Hens will start to pant above 32°C and above 50% relative humidity. However, panting for evaporative cooling loses effectiveness above 70% humidity, greatly reducing birds’ ability to tolerate heat. The lethal upper limit for body temperature for chickens is 45 – 47°C. Chickens are at risk of death from heat prostration at air temperatures above 38°C.

Clearly, chooks are most vulnerable to heat stress during the following weather conditions:

  • Heat waves: especially when high temperatures persist for more than 3 days
  • Peak daytime temperature reaches or exceeds 35°C
  • Heat fails to dissipate overnight. Like people, hens can recover well if night-time temperatures drop back down to or near their ‘neutral zone’ (ie below about 26°C)
  • Periods of high humidity, e.g. common in late February in WA
  • Chooks that are broody or at peak of egg laying are particularly vulnerable

Both hens below are panting – breathing through open beak instead of nostrils. Small hens such as the bantam hen on the left have a higher body temperature than larger hens, and are thus more susceptible to heat stress. The Isa Brown hen on the right has some feather loss, which likely helps to release body heat.

Ways to minimize heat stress in backyard laying hens

  • Fresh drinking water must be freely available at all times. Hens will drink twice as much at 38°C compared to 27°C. This can be as much as 400 – 500mL per average sized laying hen per day when it’s hot. The longer hens are exposed to high temperatures, the more they will drink (i.e. they drink more on the last day of a heat wave than the first day). Hens that are at their peak of lay will drink 50% more than average egg layers.
  • On very hot days, offering chilled water is beneficial – well below 28°C (e.g. add ice cubes or use an insulated container). Hens will drink more and lose heat more easily
  • Access to full shade – natural or artificial. Shade will also reduce reflected sunlight and glare, as long as trees, branches and other types of shade are situated in a way that does not interfere with air flow
  • Ventilation: Unrestricted or unobstructed air flow helps reduce the heat load through natural (location, pen construction) or artificial (fan) means
  • Evaporative cooling, e.g. wet hessian, jungle fogger, mister, sprinkler on the roof or in the pen. Solar misters, sprinklers and fans are now quite affordable and may be set to operate on a timer at peak times of the day
  • Feed at night when heat produced through digestion will be less. On very hot days, avoid feeding for 6 – 8 hours before the hottest part of the day
  • Ensure that the hen house is well insulated. Metal enclosures or a metal roof can greatly magnify and radiate heat
  • Heat stress is additive with other sources of stress such as parasites, social stress from insufficient space, broodiness, introduction of new hens, etc. Always take weather into account when managing these other potentially stressful factors
  • If you have a broody hen that is not actually sitting on eggs when a heat wave is expected, consider taking measures to discourage broodiness at this time. If hens are incubating eggs, make sure they have access to water at all times and are located in a deeply shaded area.
  • If no one is at home on very hot days, consider inviting a neighbour to check on your hens during the hottest part of the day. Checking shade and water, providing a sprinkler briefly or adding ice cubes to water may mean the difference between life and death.
IMG_4789 (Large)

Heat stressed rooster panting (breathing fast with an open beak). Note the very bad infestation of stickfast mites all over his comb and wattles (black).

If you would like to learn a bit more about chickens and hot weather, search for ‘heat stress’ on The Poultry Site