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Looking After the Environment

THE ENVIRONMENT IS SOMETHING WE HEAR ABOUT ON A REGULAR BASIS BUT SOMETIMES THE IMPACT WE HAVE ON IT IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND.

That is definitely not the case for Environment Supervisor Neil Roser and the small team charged with monitoring Tomago’s impact on the local surrounds, ensuring the smelter meets the specific requirements of its license.

The state’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires monthly data, which means attacking the issue in a number of different ways.

Continuous point-source monitoring, for example, is carried-out at each stack and backed-up by specific monthly tests.

As well, the five-strong team conducts ambient air monitoring at a number of sites outside Tomago Aluminium’s boundaries, with the furthest at Woodberry, about six kilometres away as the crow flies.

The external monitoring program also includes regular assessment of native vegetation, surface water and groundwater with collected data compared to guidelines and matched to historical results, ensuring that any impact is managed and action taken if needed.

The environmental team also manages the on-site sewage treatment plant with treated effluent used in designated areas around the site for irrigation.

The team has been monitoring the smelter since it was first established but, says Neil, the last five or six years have become “more interesting” as production has increased and community expectations have changed.

So how is Tomago Aluminium doing when it comes to the environmental scorecard?

“Not too bad,” says Neil. “Our emissions performance is actually improving over time, which is really pleasing and we have no historical storage of spent potlining, which is a hazardous waste and a key environmental issue for many aluminium smelters around the world.”

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