Piper calls for coal ash recycling in roads

7th October 2020

The Public Works Committee's inquiry into the costs for remediation of sites containing coal ash repositories held its second hearing at Speers Point on Tuesday.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper, whose electorate is home to the state's largest power station - Eraring - told the committee stronger laws were needed to force ash dam owners to "recycle more of the ash they generate".

Only about 30 per cent of the coal ash produced from the Origin Energy-owned Eraring station is currently recycled. Mr Piper said this fell short of a "visionary" company goal of 80 per cent that had never been met.

He said contracts with the existing users of the product were hampering other parties becoming involved.

He said there needed to be a "broadening of the market" and Transport for NSW, formerly known as Roads and Maritime Services, could be "one of the major solutions to this particular issue, this burden of legacy coal ash".

"RMS seem quite reluctant at this stage to enter into a resource that's not particularly known to them, even though it is quite well known as a quality material for constructing roads," he said.

"Transport for NSW can set the tone there... where transport goes in their construction standards, others will certainly follow."

Lake Macquarie City Council's manager environmental systems, Tim Browne, said the council would "support the ability ... to use increased proportions of fly ash in our road content".

He said that would be "aided" by Transport for NSW altering standards which all councils generally followed when building roads.

Inquiry chair Daniel Mookhey said it was "quite remarkable that we have three energies companies willing to sell the material, but no one seems to be able to identify the decision maker in [Transport for NSW] who would have to make that decision to allow that industry to effectively boom".

Mr Mookhey said given governments were about to embark on "major roads constriction" projects as part of economic stimulus measures "it would seem like we're hitting a pretty time-critical point to make this decision".

Mr Piper said ideally, all coal ash currently being produced would be recycled and then the product within the dams would be used.

More than 200 million tonnes of coal ash is dumped in unlined sites across NSW, of which half is stored in the Hunter and Central Coast. The waste product is growing by 3.8 million tonnes a year.

The committee will hold another inquiry hearing in Sydney on October 16.

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