By NOEL MURPHY
SURF Coast air activists are ramping up Anglesea’s anti-coal scare campaign, accusing Alcoa’s power station of emitting arsenic, lead and mercury near their homes.
Surf Coast Air Action accused Alcoa of arrogance and posted a Twitter a photo of a pregnant woman clasping her stomach in the latest of a long-running campaign against the company’s Anglsea plant.
“@Alcoa Emitting Arsenic, Lead and Mercury near our homes and school is not OK,” the post said.
The name of an additional chemcial, dioxin, is superimposed on the image, borrowed from US environmental group Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club image claims “when pollution from coal and coal-fired power plants makes its way into our bodies, it endangers your children’s health”.
“At least 1 in 12, and as many as 1 in 6 women in the US has levels of toxic mercury in her body that would put a baby at risk of developmental problems,” it continues.
SCAA also claimed patience in Anglesea was “wearing thin” as an “arrogant” Alcoa continued “to vacillate on the future of the dirty, redundant coal plant”.
Alcoa told the Independent the plant emitted arsenic, lead and mercury but only at significantly lower levels than deemed dangerous to health.
“These substances are emitted from the Anglesea power station, as reported in the National Pollutant Inventory,” the company said.
“In the Anglesea Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA), published in August 2013, modelled ground level concentrations for arsenic, lead and mercury are orders of magnitude lower than the State Environmental Protection Policy (Air Quality Management) (SEPP (AQM)) design criteria.
“For example, arsenic is less than 1.5 per cent, lead less than .7 per cent and mercury less than .3 per cent of the SEPP AQM design criteria, demonstrating negligible risk to human health.
“The HHRA was a voluntary initiative by Alcoa to assess emission levels from its operations in Anglesea. “
The report is available at Alcoa’s website.
Meanwhile, Alcoa’s coal-fired power station remains on the market, with more than 80 jobs threatened if a buyer cannot be found.
A union representative of the works has accused SCAA of threatening their jobs with its campaign to close the plant.
Alcoa no longer needs the power after closing its Point Henry plant this year.
The aluminium company insists it has potential buyers in the wings.
“Alcoa has received several bids for the Anglesea power station and coal mine and we continue to work through the process,” spokesperson Kate Betts told the Independent.
“This is a complex process, with many considerations, but we continue to be focused on working through it as quickly as possible so that our employees and the community can have some certainty about the future of the Anglesea operations.
“If a sale is not possible, we will evaluate options at that time.”
The EPA said the power station operated under an EPA licence that specified allowable air emissions.
“Alcoa’s most recent air monitoring results show that air emissions from the Anglesea power station comply with EPA licence limits and policy standards,” a spokesperson said.
“The company reports against the requirements of the licence in the Annual Performance Statement, which is available on EPA’s website, epa.vic.gov.au.
“The company also reports to the National Pollutant Inventory, which is available at npi.gov.au.”