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Publications archive - Hazardous waste

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Hazardous Waste Technical Group

42nd meeting
Friday 1 September 2000
8.30 am - 4.00 pm
Sims Aluminium RSF Technology, 80 Buckley Grove, MOOLAP VIC 3221
and Alcoa World Aluminium Australia, Point Henry Road, MOOLAP VIC 3221

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Minutes

Present:

Chair
Professor Paul Greenfield

Members
Mr John Hogan
Mr Stephen Moore
Dr Peter Nadebaum
Mr John Hogan
Dr Jenny Stauber
Ms Diane Kovacs

Secretariat
Ms Fiona Conolly
Dr Geoff Thompson
Dr Greg Rippon

Apologies
Dr Paul Brown
Mr Ray Evans
Mr Peter Christoff
Dr Peter Scaife
Dr Robyn Eckersley

Agenda Item 1. Draft Minutes of the 41st meeting

1. A surplus comma was deleted from para 16. As amended, the draft Minutes were accepted.

Agenda Item 2. Matters arising

2. Three people had been recommended to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Gordon Reidy and a fourth was identified at the meeting. The Department of the Environment and Heritage would approach the four so that their resumés could be circulated to stakeholders for comment.

Agenda Item 3. Progress report on operation of the Hazardous Waste Act:

(a) Permit report for previous twelve months
3. Four applications to import zinc ashes and residues had been refused because a license to process hazardous zinc waste under the new NSW legislation had not yet been issued. Since the last meeting, no permits had been granted but six applications were outstanding.

(b) Competition Policy Review of the Hazardous Waste Act
4. Public submissions to the Review had been invited and the Policy Reference Group was to consider the issues and options paper at their next meeting, on Friday 8 September 2000. As the Review has a strong policy focus, the report is not expected to impact on the Technical Group.

Agenda Item 4. Technical issues arising from applications and inquiries

(a) Proposed export of diethylaluminum chloride/heptane mixture
5. Canada had not yet acknowledged receipt of the application, probably because the Canadian facility had not yet applied for an import permit. The Department of the Environment and Heritage was proceeding to specify particulars of the export in the Regulations, without prejudice to the eventual decision, and was also waiting on a transit permit from Fiji.

(b) Proposed export of tetraethyl lead sludge
6. There had been no progress since the last meeting.

(c) Proposed export of spent potlinings
7. The meeting had a lengthy discussion of these issues with representatives of the Australian aluminium industry, including Warren Brooks, David Coutts, Graeme Hancock, John Lippelgoes, Ken Mansfield and Vicki Pryse. The long-term aim of the industry was to establish viable and sustainable options for disposal of spent potlinings (SPL) within Australia and companies had been working on this since the 1980's. Problems included the need to ensure either that SPL was totally consumed in processing as a raw material or that suitable markets could be found for it.

8. The industry had tried a number of ways to reduce generation of the waste by increasing pot life, with varying degrees of success. These included use of barriers in cell construction, use of different cell components, optimising cell construction and optimising delining operations. Good incremental progress had been made but there was no breakthrough. The long lead time was a problem: the effects of a change made today would not be known for some years.

9. The best developed sustainable option for disposal in Australia appeared to be the COMTOR treatment plant that Comalco operates at the Boyne Island Smelter. This is a two stage process, which uses thermal treatment to destroy cyanide followed by caustic leaching to recover sodium and fluoride. The plant produces caustic solution which is used in the nearby alumina refinery, fluorinated chemicals and carbonaceous residue. The plant does not have the capacity to take SPL from other smelters.

10. The carbonaceous material could be used in cement kilns but there are problems with this. These include community concern about acceptance of hazardous waste as a raw material, the high sodium content (specifications for cement have tight sodium levels) and the potential for fluoride to leach from the clinker. Since the fuel value of the SPL is marginal, cement manufacturers are reluctant to take it despite the low cost.

11. Portland Aluminium is establishing a treatment and fluoride recycling facility using a high temperature reactor developed by Ausmelt and a fluoride recovery process developed by Alcoa. The fluoride emitted from the furnace is collected and converted into aluminium fluoride. The process gets rid of the cyanide and reduces leachable fluoride from the thousands to the tens, but increase the volume of the slag. This slag could be used as road aggregate or as an aggregate in concrete but this is problematic because the process does not give a consistently low fluoride content. It can treat first and second cut SPLs but the cooling rate affects the final form, and therefore the likely leachability of fluoride. Outstanding problems were the long lead time needed, the need to demonstrate it would pass leachate tests, and the production of enough material (about 10 tonne) to perform adequate scale trials. Other problems were refractory life and equipment reliability.

12. While industry and government were working together to find a long-term domestic solution, material was stored in various ways. Off-site storage was possible for the second-cut material, which has a lower fluoride content, but it is generally necessary to store the first-cut material on site because of community concerns. Tomago was particularly limited in its ability to store material because the smelter was located on the edge of the Tomago sandbeds.

13. Tomago had obtained a special export permit in December 1997 for 34,000 tonnes of SPL, which was sent to Italy. The Italian steel industry has developed a world-leading capability to use SPL as a flux in electric arc furnaces. Secondary steel is fed into these furnaces, which have a high demand for carbon to recarbonise the steel.

14. There are two or three steel production facilities that operate electric arc furnaces in Australia, but they lack the capacity to take much of the SPL that is generated in Australia. The operators were well aware that the community, workers and regulators were concerned about the use of hazardous wastes as raw materials, and there would also be problems with leachable fluoride in the slag.

15. The leachable fluoride is the major obstacle to use of the slag in cement or road aggregate. Moreover, estimation of leachability is complicated by the fact that fluoride is significantly more soluble in highly alkaline conditions than acidic conditions (the situation modelled by the TCLP). It was generally accepted that the NSW approach of accepting different leaching solutions, including those which would be more akin to a "rainfall" scenario, may be more realistic for these materials.

16. Tomago regarded export to Italy as a valuable way to minimise the accumulation of stored SPL in Australia in the short term and was interested in applying for another permit. However, export to Italy was expensive and it was not seen as a long-term option. Instead, Tomago was preparing to begin a feasibility study with Thiess and Ausmelt, as well as looking at trials with a small speciality smelter in Newcastle which had recently been acquired by Smorgons.

17. The Technical Group acknowledged that there were technical problems associated with the various long-term disposal options under development, and identified three points on which further information would be requested in relation to any application for an export permit:

Agenda Item 5. Reports of international meetings

(a) OECD Second Workshop on Environmentally Sound Management of Wastes Destined for Recovery Operations, 28-29 September 2000, Vienna.

  1. Documents for the workshop
  2. OECD Survey of ESM Practices as Related to Recoverable Wastes
  3. Strategic planning for an ESM system for recovery operations
  4. Check-list for authorities: ESM of used personal computers (waste)

(b) OECD Working Group on Waste Management Policy. 51st meeting, 2-4 October 2000, Vienna.

  1. Everything you wanted to know about spent potlinings
  2. Four e-mails from Rick Picardi, US EPA
  3. US EPA LDR Treatment Standards for Spent Aluminium Potliners
  4. US EPA Environmental Fact Sheet
  5. US Federal Register: Land Disposal Restrictions: Treatment Standards for Spent Potliners
  6. Proposed Best Demonstrated Available Technology Background Document for Spent Aluminium Potliners K088
  7. E-mail to Rick Picardi, US EPA
  8. Text of e-mail correspondence on spent potlinings

(c) Basel Convention Technical Working Group, 9-11 October 2000, Geneva

  1. Provisional Agenda
  2. Annotated Provisional Agenda
  3. Procedure for Communicating Decisions
  4. Draft Technical Guidelines on Lead Battery Wastes
  5. Hazard Characteristic H6.2

18. The above items (a) to (c) were not discussed, except to note that Dr Thompson would be attending as the sole Australian delegate and to agree that it would be sensible to propose the addition of "spent potlinings from aluminium smelting" to Annex VIII of the Basel Convention.

(d) Workshop on environmentally sound management in the Basel Convention ("Dakar II"), Dakar

19. This item was not discussed.

Agenda Item 6. Work Program of the Technical Group

(a) History of the Technical Group

(b) Future work program

20. These items were not discussed.

Agenda Item 7. Criteria for separating hazardous from non-hazardous wastes

(a) Draft Guidance on OHS controls on lead in the workplace

(b) Products from Galvanizers Ash Processing

21. These items were not discussed.

Agenda Item 8. Criteria for separating wastes from non-wastes

(a) Waste/non-waste status of Lead Sulphate Leach Concentrate

22. The Group noted the additional text that had been added to the above paper since the previous meeting. It was agreed that there was now sufficient information to confirm that the material was not a waste on the basis that the material is produced intentionally and is not merely an add-on process to recover materials which otherwise would be destined for disposal.

23. The Group recommended that once the current permit expires the company would not need a permit for future shipments of this particular material.

Agenda Item 9. Defining environmentally sound management

(a) Draft guidance on Assessment of Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Waste Destined for Recovery Operations in OECD Countries

24. This item was not discussed.

Agenda Item 10. Regional Centres

(a) Proposed workshop on hazardous wastes in the mining industry, Beijing 2000: discussion of agenda and organisation

25. Dr Thompson confirmed that this meeting would go ahead as planned and that Ms Isobel Stanley and Professor Michael Moore would attend the workshop as facilitator/presenters. Agenda Item 11. Avoidance, minimisation and treatment of hazardous wastes

26. This item was not discussed.

Agenda Item 12. Other business

27. There was no other business.

Agenda Item 13. Dates of next meetings

(a) The meeting on 20 October 2000 was cancelled.

(b) The next meeting will be on Thursday 23 - Friday 24 November 2000 to allow for a joint meeting with the Policy Reference Group in Canberra.