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28 April 2021
Australian Plant Proteins director Phil McFarlane has urged people to use an online information session tomorrow to find out more about a proposed $160,000 waste-water farm at Quantong.
Mr McFarlane said people should take the opportunity to ask questions, ‘in a constructive manner’ to develop a clear understanding of what the project involved.
He was responding to community anxiety over plans for a Blair family-owned Water Sustainability Farm site at Quantong where APP hopes to truck waste water from its production site at Horsham Enterprise Estate.
A group of angry Quantong residents is fiercely opposed to the concept, using social media to air grievances and fears. They have also lodged a series of questions via a State Government engagement web portal.
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The residents have major concerns about what the site might represent in relation to the environment, property values, lifestyle and the future of farm and tourism business opportunities. They have also raised issues about pre-planning consultation.
“Like any major development there is a consultation process and regulatory bodies that ultimately determine whether a project can or can’t proceed. Everyone must have an opportunity to ask questions and have a say,” Mr McFarlane said.
He said APP had little choice but to pursue independent water treatment and recycling for production because of a lack of infrastructure in Horsham.
He added the company was also determined to ‘make it work’ by keeping in line with regulatory and environmental waste-water practices while taking responsibility in appropriately managing its own water use.
“This is all about basic good corporate citizenship and making sure we manage and recycle water in an environmental and sustainable way,” he said.
“We have plans to explore more value-adding projects from the waste streams and stand on our reputation in adhering and promoting to environmental and sustainable standards.”
Water Sustainability Farm has proposed to manage two APP waste streams at the Quantong site – an average of 57,000 litres of brine and up to 5000 kilograms a day of dewatered sludge compost.
The business proposes to concentrate the brine through solar evaporation in four drying basins and dry the compost sludge in windrows on a drying pad.
The plan is to use the dried material as a value-added product for agricultural purposes and most likely dispose of ‘super-saline’ waste in landfill post-evaporation.
Seed preparation and naturally occurring salt in pulses lifts the saline level in water used in protein-powder production.
GWMWater is providing interim waste-water management services while the treatment-plant project undergoes regulatory scrutiny.
Water Sustainability Farm will host an online information session between 7.30pm and 8.30pm tomorrow to explain information it has provided to Environment Protection Authority Victoria.
People can join the session on website engage.vic.gov.au/epa-works-approvals/water-sus.
Horsham Rural City Council and EPA are also encouraging people to lodge submissions regarding the plan before a May 7 deadline. The council is also urging people to read project-application documentation.
Horsham council communities and place director Kevin O’Brien said council planning officers had been in ongoing communication with Water Sustainability Farm since late last year, following three complaints relating to large-scale earthworks at the site.
“All on-site works have stopped and Water Sustainability Farm is aware it requires a council planning permit before construction or operation of evaporation basins can take place,” he said.
“The council reassures residents that no planning-permit application has been lodged with the council to date, and there is much work that needs to be undertaken as part of any statutory planning-permit application.”
Mr O’Brien said council officers had encouraged WSF to make direct contact with neighbouring Quantong residents.
“The WSF has lodged a works application with Environment Protection Authority and the assessment process is underway using the Engage Vic on-line portal. Website, engage.vic.gov.au/epa-works-approvals/water-sus provides the most up-to-date information on the progress of the project,” he said.
“The EPA has requested WSF provide additional information to support the works application and the process will not continue until this is provided.”
Mr McFarlane said the water-treatment farm was similar but smaller to what was in already place to deal with Horsham waste water off the Wimmera Highway at nearby Vectis.
“In the end, we have confidence in the approval process involving the relevant regulatory bodies and their scientific and environmental professionalism,” he said.
Mr McFarlane’s comments came after he assured Horsham people that an odour coming from the water-treatment plant at the company’s Horsham Enterprise Estate site was temporary.
He said the odour had been the unfortunate result of the final stages of commissioning the treatment plant.
“We expect the odour will disappear quite quickly and as a precautionary measure will also cover the plant with roofing to ensure future odours don’t occur,” he said.
“We apologise for any inconvenience to residents and thank them for their patience.”
A $45.7-million investment from international agri-food giant Bunge has fast-tracked plans for Australian Plant Proteins to double production of plant-protein powder.
The expansion will take the plant’s Horsham workforce to more than 40.
The entire April 28, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser and AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!