Odour lingers over secrecy


Christine Steele with the community odour survey in March 2015, the only time the community has had a chance to hold it.
        Picture: Bryce Luff
Christine Steele with the community odour survey in March 2015, the only time the community has had a chance to hold it.         Picture: Bryce Luff

The Community Odour Study, which was funded by the Munster-based company under instruction from the Department of Environment Regulation (DER), was conducted by an independent consultant over a 15-month period in 2013 and 2014.

A summary of the results was presented to the community at a briefing in Henderson in March last year.

The results were positive for the company, with just 2.4 per cent of the 85,000 odour samples linked back to Cockburn Cement.

Of that 2.4 per cent, odour intensity was recorded as weak 61 per cent of the time and strong to very strong just 1 per cent of the time. While residents were impressed with the study, they remain frustrated they have not been given a copy to read and assess themselves.

The City of Cockburn and Cockburn MLA Fran Logan are in the same position, and that is unlikely to change.

At another community briefing in Yangebup last week, Cockburn Cement’s executive general manager Brad Lemmon said his team never intended to hand over the report.

He said even if it did, it was now in the hands of the Department of Environment Regulation (DER).

“We had no involvement in the construction of the report,” he said.

“That information was drawn up and submitted to the DER.

“The report is not actually in the hands of Cockburn Cement.”

But when the DER was sought for comment, the Gazette was re-directed back to Cockburn Cement to obtain a copy.

Since the original survey was undertaken, Cockburn Cement has halted clinker production – meaning two kilns are going unused – and moved on to “phase two” of its odour investigations: looking into whether lime kilns five and six are producing odour.

This is being done in collaboration with the DER.

Mr Lemmon used changes at the site to question the significance of the report’s release.“To glean anything from that (odour study) now, and base that on anything that’s happening today, would be a fruitless exercise,” he said.

But Mr Logan said the initial report was not meaningless to the community.

“We want to know the technical data behind it,” he said.

“There are people from those seven study areas who would like to have their say on it.”

Mayor Logan Howlett also called for greater transparency, so the community understands what is happening.

A DER spokeswoman said the second phase of the study was almost complete.

“DER is currently finalising its assessment, which includes consideration of the odour assessment, to inform the renewal of Cockburn Cement’s licence which will expire on the 30th March, 2016,” she said.

“The Department’s decision document will be made available on the DER website as soon as a decision has been made.”