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Why a buffer zone?
Industrial Process Water Overview
Managed Aquifer Recharge
Marine (Cockburn Sound)
- Model report link
Why a buffer zone?
People often ask why heavy industry needs a buffer zone, and why the industries just don’t contain their emissions on their sites. Typically, heavy industry is noisy and possibly has stack emissions to the air. These industries have to be located somewhere close to where their employees live, and they make products that are essential to our everyday lives.
They also operate with an off-site risk profile, which in many cases extends well beyond the immediate site boundary. Grouping these industries together is sensible. Doing this creates a cumulative risk profile, the (risk) contours look somewhat like the contour lines on a topographical map, and are often referred to as the Societal Risk profile. Generally, the location of these lines reflect the risks associated with an unplanned and catastrophic release of some dangerous chemical or an explosive force.
Stack emissions to the air have dispersion contours similar in nature to societal risk contours, as does noise emitted from industrial premises. Other emissions could include dust, light spillage, or odours; none of which can be effectively contained on to a specific site.
So, the first purpose of a buffer zone is to make sure that ‘sensitive receptors’ (for example a residential population) are located at a far enough away from the emitting industries so that the health and amenity of those residents is not adversely impacted by the industry emissions in an ongoing sense, or by a catastrophic event. In other words, residents are located far enough away to enable those impacts from the heavy industry cluster to be adequately diffused over a geographic distance, which may be for example a couple of kilometres.
The second purpose of a buffer zone is to prevent the movement of the sensitive uses encroachment being located too closer and closer to industry. Encroachment pressure by residential property developers is industry’s biggest strategic issue. It is critically important to industry that an adequate buffer zone is created by the State’s planners and that it is rigorously defended from the advances of residential property developers who would like to place more and more houses closer and closer to industry. The only winners when this is allowed to happen are the property developers, everyone else loses.
The property developers often say that the land in the buffer zone is a terrible waste of land and that it is quarantined from further development. This is nonsense. There is no reason why there can’t be a transition of uses from the heavy industry core to the residential areas, where industry progressively gets lighter and lighter, or less and less impacting, until it has no impact at all. Furniture warehouse shops, car yards and other commercial uses are a good example of non-residential uses that have no impact on nearby housing.
The ‘quarantined land’ argument is one that the residential property developers put up to enhance their argument to have existing buffer zones reduced is not reflective of the reality of the situation. Those same commercial or light industry uses on the outer edge of the buffer also serve to constrain any outward movement of the core industry area. It works both ways.
Adequately protected buffer zones are a critical enabler of industry, laid down to protect the health and amenity impacts on nearby residential areas, to keep them properly separated. Buffer zones are described and managed under State Planning Policy (SPP) 5.4.
Industrial process water overview
Industry by its very nature uses large volumes of water in its processes. Whether this is by using the actual water molecules in the process, through evaporation via cooling towers, or the generation of electricity via steam. Process water is an essential input in any heavy industrial area, as is waste water disposal.
In Kwinana, the bulk of industrial process water comes from groundwater supplies, some from recycled waste water, and some from Scheme water supplies. Industry considers the security of its process water supplies as being essential to its continuity.
Groundwater extraction volumes are managed and capped by the Regulator, and no new licences will be issued in the industrial core. Investigation into innovations associated with water recycling activities within individual and between neighbouring industries have delivered some big savings over the years, resulting in industry to industry product synergy exchanges being developed.
The Kwinana Water Reclamation Plant (KWRP) converts a large volume of treated wastewater from the Woodman Point Wastewater Treatment Plant into high quality water suitable for industrial processes, and now forms an integral part of the process water supply story.
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But all of this is not going to deliver sufficient new process water supplies going into an industrial future. In that future, the new industries associated with Lithium Valley and a new port in Kwinana are arriving, and they will need process water supplies.
No matter how efficient industrial water recycling on a broad scale is done, there will eventually be wastewater to be dealt with. Long gone are the days when wastewater was a chemical cocktail of dangerous chemicals, and this is good. Today, because of advanced technology, wastewater generally can at worst be described as being too salty, too alkaline or too acidic to be disposed of via the conventional wastewater disposal system. These days, and with modern technology, all of these characteristics can be treated in one way or another, and it seems this approach to re-use is going to be the solution to this disposal issue.
At the end of the day, water is becoming too precious to be considered a liability to be disposed of wastefully. Once adequately treated, waste water becomes an input resource for industry. Solutions are there to be found, and it the good deal of willingness shown by all parties to bring workable solutions out into the light of day is delivering the results.
Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR)
MAR can deliver huge volumes of adequate industrial process water to industry which otherwise would be wasted. Two basic ingredients are required – the aquifer needs to be porus enough for the water to move through and the wastewater needs to be available.
The science (CSIRO) says the geology is right and the waste water available. A great deal of study has been done over the past three years to confirm that MAR will work in the Kwinana Industrial Area. Industry remains hopeful that a project will get up.
- The need: Large volumes of reasonably good quality water available over quite a wide distance will be needed as new industries establish in the WTC, and specifically the KIA. With the reducing rainfall trend over time, the Regulator will not approve new allocations, and water recycling is already largely optimised.
- The project: In Kwinana, the MAR project would, via a pipeline connection to the East Rockingham Wastewater Treatment Plant, deliver good quality secondary treated wastewater into the aquifer to the east of the industrial area. The natural groundwater flow is in a westerly direction toward the coast, and for every extra kilolitre of MAR-water added to the groundwater supply, the same could be removed downstream for industrial uses.
- Project status: The project appears stalled due to late concerns from the Regulator about their perceived risks associated with legacy groundwater contamination plumes under the industrial area. It is hoped these potential risks can be quantified and managed. The alternative is to take the same wastewater, which is currently treated to a relatively high standard, and pipe it into a future recycled water network overland where the industries can extract their process water requirements directly.
Kwinana Water Reclamation Plant (KWRP)
The KWRP has been operating since 2004, and is owned by the Water Corporation. Located in the heart of the heavy industrial area, nicely situated close to its main industrial customers. The plant takes in in secondary treated wastewater from the Woodman Point Wastewater Treatment Plant ocean outfall line, and via reverse osmosis, produces a very high-quality process water supply for nearby industrial uses.
The KWRP is an excellent example of industrial symbiosis, sustainable practices and recycling of waste products, on the premise that a material (wastewater in this case) is not a ‘waste’ until it has no further use. The KWRP produces around 5 billion litres of process water annually, thereby meeting some of industry’s demand on Perth’s ‘drinking water’ and groundwater supplies.
Depending on customer availability, expansion of the KWRP’s capacity will be considered.
When two individual companies exchange a manufactured product, or waste product, usually on commercial terms, this is known as a synergy exchange. Industrial symbiosis is where a whole cluster of industries have many exchanges going on – like in the Kwinana Industrial Area (KIA). These exchanges grow over time as more companies move into the area.
The synergies help to make the participating companies more internationally competitive, and this is good. It’s also good for the environment because one company’s waste becomes the input for another.
The KIA is referred to as the world’s best practice example of industrial symbiosis at work. The schematic maps the synergy exchanges as they were in 2013. We have on our doorstep the best example of industrial symbiosis in the world, right here!
Normally people talk about synergies as products and by-products, like in the diagram. I say there are two more kinds: the ‘human resource’ synergy; and the ‘secondary industry’ synergy.
The ‘human resource’ synergy refers to the 30,000 highly skilled and experienced workers employed in the industrial area. Two thirds of these workers live locally, and choose to work here rather than away, and they will move between companies. When a new company builds its plant, it will more than likely attract workers from within the local area. The new company starts up with experienced employees. Poetry.
The third synergy is the ‘secondary industry’. Surrounding our industrial area is a belt of companies that exist to service the nearby major industries. These are the expert fabricators, constructors and equipment maintainers. There is a strategic advantage in having these secondary companies present because aside from being on industry’s doorstep, they deliver top quality local content products and services.
There is a big, new wave of industry heading for Kwinana to set up their processing plants so they can take their place in the lithium battery value chain. Why? Because we have all three types of synergies in Kwinana, and few others do.