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The City of Swan and Bitutek say noise and odour can be managed but EPA guidelines suggest a 1000m buffer could apply.

Noise, odour and buffer checks for bitumen plant

THE Environmental Protection Authority has requested the City of Swan provide a site and industry-specific noise and odour study, as part of its application to rezone an Upper Swan site to allow blending, mixing and heating bitumen at the site.

In a separate process the Department of Environmental Regulation (DWER) is assessing a licensing application from Bitutek to operate the industry at the site. 

A DWER spokeswoman said assessment of the licensing application could only be completed once the rezoning application was resolved.

The spokeswoman said the EPA’s guidance statement No. 3 Separation distances between industrial and sensitive land uses (GS3) Appendix 1 recommended a 1000m buffer between ‘asphalt works’ and sensitive land uses, such as residential development. 

“Bitumen processing is not among industry categories listed in GS3 – so ‘asphalt works’ is the most appropriate category for guiding consideration of Amendment 150; followed by ‘oil or gas refinery’ (as bitumen is a residue from the refinement of crude oil),’’ she said. “GS3 recommends a 2000m buffer between oil refineries and sensitive land uses. 

“The generic buffer distances in GS3 are provided as guidance for proponents and responsible authorities, such as local governments. 

“Where a proponent or authority wishes to deviate from the GS3 guidance, it is expected to demonstrate through a site-specific study based on industry-specific information that a lesser distance will not have unacceptable impacts.”

Echo News understands the site and industry-specific noise and odour study for the Bitutek site as required by the Planning and Development Act 2005 was sent to the EPA earlier this month.

In 2015 the city gave development approval for Bitutek to store bitumen at its Lot 16 (No. 1392) and Lot 32 (No. 1398) Great Northern Hwy, which had operated as a transport depot since 2012.

But it did not give Bitutek approval to blend, mix or heat bitumen as that is defined as an industrial process and could not be approved in a resource zone.

(While the site is zoned resource under city’s local planning scheme it is zoned rural under the metropolitan regional scheme.)

In August 2017 the city agreed to initiate Amendment No. 150 to local planning scheme No. 17 (LPS17) to allow modification to existing additional use No. 36 of schedule 2 of LPS17 for the Upper Swan site.

In 2016, residents began to report an acrid bitumen odour which was being blown across their homes by the prevailing easterly wind.

They said bitumen was being transported to the site from suppliers and bitumen vapour was released during the transfer process in the filling of holding tanks, road tankers and road sprayers.

A supplier and transporter of hot bitumen for road maintenance and construction projects within WA, Bitutek has provided bitumen for the NorthLink WA project, including the central section and for some temporary works on the northern section.

The 2017 development application said the proposed amendment would allow Bitutek to mix or blend hot bitumen with other products or additives to produce specialist bitumen blends for site or condition specific applications.

The company believed noise and odour emissions could be managed first, by a combination of physical design such as noise attenuation materials and air extraction and filter systems.

Second, noise and odour emissions could be managed by operational practices such as limiting operation hours or duration of blending, mixing and heating, particularly during hot or windy weather conditions.

In the report staff said the proposed additional use of blending, mixing and heating would have minimal impact on the amenity of surrounding properties as potential noise and odour effects could be addressed via modifications to the relevant existing buildings on the land.

By Anita McInnes

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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