As Enviropacific celebrates its 20th anniversary, Waste Management Review sits down with key company figures to explore the business’s experience, expertise and capability in managing Australia’s growing hazardous waste management needs.
While immediately recognisable to those familiar with hazardous waste and remediation, the sight of outsized white tents at the intersection of Smith Street and Queens Parade is a point of intrigue for residents in Melbourne’s inner north.
Impressive in scale, the tents were erected as part of a long-term remediation project at the former Fitzroy Gasworks.
While remediation is the technical term, Jared Roberts, Enviropacific State Manager, characterises the project differently, highlighting the works as an opportunity to unlock land for future community, environmental and economic benefit.
Built in 1859, Fitzroy Gasworks was a key supplier of gas to the Melbourne area until production ceased in 1927, with the site remaining operational as a workshop and gas storage facility until the 1970s.
Historical gasworks activities resulted in soil and groundwater contamination, with EPA Victoria issuing a clean-up notice for the site in 2014. Enviropacific was appointed by the state government to remediate the site in 2018.
“Fitzroy Gasworks is a good example of a practice that at the time was cutting-edge technology,” Roberts says.
“Fast forward to now, however, and Fitzroy Gasworks is a site with legacy contamination that needs to be cleaned up to allow future use at the site.”
Remediation involves a range of on-site activities, with the aim of achieving a statement of environmental audit.
Once complete, these activities will achieve soil and groundwater quality suitable for development, mitigation and management of residual soil vapour, and protection of the existing community and future residents that may one day live on the site.
“We’ve applied technology agnostic logic to manage what is a complex set of chemicals in soil and rock within an inner urban environment,” Roberts says.
Community protection is therefore critical, he adds, with the aforementioned white tents highlighting Enviropacific’s strategic approach to risk control.
“If we didn’t have those risk controls in place there would be a range of odour and other risks existing outside of the site, which would mean the works could not be undertaken,” Roberts explains.
“This project is a key example of Enviropacific’s approach to not only focusing on environmental outcomes, but also the human health and societal controls that need to be in place for us to do the technical work and limit its effect on the surrounding neighbourhood.”
LEGACY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
Fitzroy Gasworks is just one of over 3500 projects undertaken by Enviropacific in its 20-year history.
David Tucker, Enviropacific Managing Director, explains that the company’s central purpose is to prevent, stop and reverse environmental damage to create safer and healthier communities.
“Enviropacific was established in 2001 by two friends, Matt Fensom and Cameron McLean. In essence, two young men and a ute,” he says.
Enviropacific’s first contract was with Australia’s biggest apartment developer, Meriton, working on a site in Chiswick, in Sydney’s inner west.
Since then, the business has expanded through growth and acquisitions, operating in all states with offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, as well as Townsville and Newcastle.
“We’ve built Enviropacific into a remediation company that is unrivalled in the breadth of services we provide, as well as national reach,” Tucker says.
“We have the project delivery experience to de-risk projects using proven cost effective, innovative and value-based solutions, and we handle, treat and re-use more types of hazardous waste than any other provider in Australia.”
At its core, Enviropacific works with governments, industry and communities to clean up the brown footprint society leaves behind.
“We’ve achieved that by developing the capability to process a number of hazardous waste materials, such as asbestos, heavy metals, toxic chemicals and manmade chemicals like PFAS and PCBs,” Tucker says.
Specialising in engineering and applied science solutions to prevent and remediate solid and liquid contamination, Enviropacific is committed to operating as a trusted provider to the private and public sectors.
“Engineering and applied science is at the heart of what we do. Whether it’s remediation, water treatment or hazardous waste management, we have the capabilities to develop bespoke technical solutions,” Tucker says.
As a company committed to technological agnosticism, Enviropacific works with a range of international technology partners to achieve desired environmental outcomes.
“We don’t align ourselves with a particular technology and that’s a point of difference,” Tucker says.
“For any project, there are a range of techniques to either encapsulate or destroy contamination, so we work closely with our clients to develop tailored remediation plans.”
Roberts expresses similar sentiments, explaining that in simple terms Enviropacific’s purpose is to manage chemicals that are in the wrong place.
“For the past 20 years we’ve evolved our management approach to be agnostic with respect to technology and treatment process,” Roberts says.
“This gives us the ability to look at any form of chemical treatment and apply our processes to achieve sustainability and risk-based outcomes.”
Roberts adds that Enviropacific’s maturity is another point of difference, facilitating the capacity to apply 20 years of intellectual property to a range of chemical and hazardous waste challenges.
“We’ve evolved our project risk delivery systems to achieve a high level of engineering safety, regardless of what the material is or how we find it within a project,” Roberts says.
“There’s nothing we won’t look at in terms of hazardous projects and risk.”
When managing hazardous materials in high-risk environments, the notion of applying circular economy principals generally falls to the wayside, Roberts says. He adds that when we remove fire, explosive or acute vapour risk during our planning and work delivery, it is considered a win.
“That’s often the standard, but because of our agnostic approach we’re able to consider broader project outcomes such as the circular economy within the framework of a strongly weighted de-risking strategy.”
“We continually evolve our risk and re-use strategy, creating material re-use wherever practical” Roberts says.
According to Tucker, growing awareness around legacy environmental impacts and resulting legislative changes such as Victoria’s forthcoming EP Act are shifting the conversation around chain of custody and hazardous waste management.
“The industry hasn’t been squeaky clean, historically, but fortunately that’s changing. With changing regulations and greater demand placed on public health and the environment, more onus is being positioned on who owns the problem,” Tucker says.
“As a result, regulators want to see transparency and an assurance that the problem has been dealt with. And that’s what we’re able to provide to our customers: certainty.”
Tucker highlights Enviropacific’s SOLVE facility and its destruction certificates as a standout example of quality assurance.
The certificates act as a guarantee that any material received at SOLVE is treated, and exits the treatment process compliant with regulations and free of contamination.
Amy Wells, SOLVE Manager, explains that SOLVE has a quality assurance process providing evidence of when every parcel of material comes in, where it was stored prior to treatment and where it is stored while awaiting verification of treatment.
“We test and validate that all the material has been effectively treated before it leaves the site and can provide customers with a proof of destruction certificate that says contamination no longer exists,” Wells says.
“These certificates are informed by testing completed by third party testing bodies. The QA of this process means they become a valuable instrument for our customers to demonstrate they have met their General Environmental Duties per the revised Environment Protection Act and the reporting requirements of priority wastes, as detailed in the Environment Protection Regulations”
Established in 2018, SOLVE is Australia’s largest hazardous waste facility. Strategically located in Melbourne’s Altona industrial precinct, SOLVE has the capability to remediate Category A and B contaminant streams, including PFAS, PCBs, scheduled and other prescribed industrial waste.
“Since we started receiving material in 2018, we’ve been expanding the range of contaminants that can be treated and continue to trial different contaminants and materials that can be used to help with the desorption process,” Wells says.
“What I like about our approach is that from zero to 100 per cent contamination, we’ve got the ability to combine different materials and different approaches across the whole range of contaminants and still provide a reliable treatment process.”
Enviropacific has been involved in thermal treatment for close to 10 years, Wells says, having operated thermal facilities at other sites in Sydney and Melbourne, including a defence site where the company delivered thermal treatment service.
SOLVE adopts strict controls, including screening prior to assessing treatment suitability and undertaking the thermal desorption process.
The thermal desorption process sees the material heated to temperatures of around 500°C, with contaminants desorbed from the solid matrix and collected into the vapour stream.
Once this is complete, the material is ready for rehydration in a pugmill, cooling and stockpiling. The off-gas stream passes through a cyclone to remove larger particles and the gas containing desorbed contaminants is oxidised at temperatures reaching 1100°C.
“Thermal desorption takes contaminants, chemicals and materials and ensures they are converted into something that is stable and safe post-treatment,” Wells says.
“Be it water or carbon dioxide, those molecules are safe and aren’t going to decompose into something different. Once it’s been oxidised it doesn’t revert. It is a great way to reduce volume to landfill as well as reduce the risk inherent to these substances.”
URBANISATION AND FISCAL SPEND
Looking forward, Tucker believes a raft of opportunities to expand Enviropacific’s reach, range of technological capabilities and project portfolio exist.
“We can’t ignore the fact that we’re coming out of COVID and a recession, but things will continue to rebound. Part of that is governments across all levels committing to significant expenditure,” he says.
“Whether it’s defence, public infrastructure or other forms of urbanisation, there’s always cross over with the brown footprint and dealing with contamination.
“It’s our duty to actively engage with industry and make sure we continue to provide supportive and sustainable solutions.”
Mining, oil and gas will be key growth areas, Tucker adds, with conversations around climate change, energy and renewables, water scarcity and drought resistance highlighting the importance of revised industrial approaches.
“These are global matters, but they will have a significant impact on Australia,” he says.
“They’re decommissioning certain oil and gas fields and mines are also changing, as shown in the end of the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu.
“As such, there are large stockpiles of hazardous material that we need to find a pathway for.”
Tucker also forecasts opportunities for Enviropacific to grow outside the Australian market in the next five to 10 years.
“I think there’s an opportunity to develop our expertise and presence in regions such as South East Asia,” he says.
“They have similar problems to us but it’s not as highly regulated. That said, I expect in the next five to 10 years that will change, so that’s an avenue to expand our business. I see plenty of opportunity.”
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