GREEN energy producer Epuron should drop plans for a solar farm in South Fremantle and instead look to Cockburn’s landfill site in Henderson, says former local MP Adele Carles.
The North Coogee resident, who was the state’s first lower house Greens MP before turning independent, has even met with Cockburn’s mayor twice to spruik the plan for Epuron.
Ms Carles has joined opponents of the solar farm who fear it puts nearby residents’ health at risk because of contamination, including medical waste, in the disused South Fremantle tip (“Shine rubbing off solar array?” Fremantle Herald, April 6, 2018).
“There are inherent problems with Fremantle’s plans for a solar plant on the old South Fremantle tip site and they cannot be managed away,” Ms Carles said.
“There are hundreds of people living on the site’s boundary without a buffer zone.
“These people are being expected to bear the brunt of the potential contamination risk from the quarantine and industrial waste buried within the site.”
Ms Carles commissioned a report from scientists Kelly Duckworth and Lee Bell at the Alliance for a Clean Environment who say any disturbance of the site risks exposing invisible, potentially deadly pathogens.
“Firstly, the two-metre deep burial requirement has been determined on the basis of … the way in which micro-organisms, invertebrates and some vertebrates burrow or tunnel through soil and bring quarantine pathogens to the surface,” their report said.
“The two-metre ‘cap’ is therefore a critical and integral part of the quarantine burial.”
They also criticised advice from former environment minister and current premier Mark McGowan from a previous application to use the site that works would stop if any quarantine material was seen, saying “the pathogens of greatest concern are simply not visible to the naked eye”.
Ms Carles said a petition circulating had 400 signatures opposing the solar farm, with the bulk from Cockburn residents.
“There is a common sense win-win solution here – locate the solar plant to the Henderson industrial area a few kilometres to the south and these problems disappear,” she said.
“Epuron can get a larger, flatter site, without people living nearby – a site that will accommodate commercial-grade panels that can be positioned correctly to generate the maximum amount of clean energy from the sun.
“The City of Freo can still enter into a contract to buy Epuron’s clean energy from the Henderson site.”
Cockburn mayor Logan Howlett confirmed to the Herald his council would be considering a solar farm on the Henderson landfill site as part of a broad study into renewable energy in the next 12 months.
He said the council would look at an in-house system or an external contractor, but wouldn’t comment on whether it would match the $1 peppercorn lease Fremantle has offered Epuron. He said any lease would go through usual tender of expression of interest processes.
Mr Howlett wouldn’t comment on claims the South Freo solar farm put his ratepayers at risk.
“The elected members of the city are receiving a briefing from City of Fremantle staff at our general briefing session tonight (Thursday, August 15) whereby there will be an opportunity to receive the briefing and ask questions relating to the proposal by the City of Fremantle,” he said.
The Greens have backed the council this week, with the party’s WA spokesperson for climate change and energy, Tim Clifford calling it “exactly the forward thinking we need”.
Mr Clifford said there were disappointing “damaging and incorrect statements” being peddled about the proposal.
“All levels of government, and industry, must be working together to reduce our emissions and to reduce Australia’s impact on global emissions,” he said.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt reiterated that his council wouldn’t proceed unless the solar farm could be proven safe, but noted it had been given the green light by the relevant regulatory authority. But he said the council would seek further clarification from the health and environment departments about the quarantine material.
by STEVE GRANT and TATIANA DALIN