As the largest site of its kind in Queensland, Hi-Quality Group’s Yatala Waste Treatment Facility is playing a pivotal role in Australia’s growing environmental remediation sector.
Hazardous waste generation trended strongly upwards in the eight years to 2017-18, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of nine per cent.
According to the Federal Government’s latest hazardous waste report, contaminated soils largely drove this trend, with nationally unprecedented increases in 2017-18.
As contaminated soils generally arise as a result of construction and development activities, one can assume this upward trend will continue alongside Australia’s booming infrastructure pipeline.
This is particularly pertinent for Queensland, which has 11 projects listed on Infrastructure Australia’s latest Infrastructure Priority List – the highest number of any state or territory.
Growing contaminated waste rates, combined with increasingly stringent environmental regulations, was a key driver behind Hi-Quality Group’s latest investment – a new state-of-the-art waste treatment facility in Yatala, Queensland.
The group was established over 50 years ago, with its core business originally based around landfills and quarries.
In recent years, a large percentage of the company’s capital investment has been directed at best-practice initiatives.
As such, it grew to incorporate recycling facilities and transport services, with the new treatment facility rounding out the group’s end-to-end waste management portfolio.
After 12 months of construction, Yatala opened 1 August 2020 – representing a strong strategic asset for a region with one of the fastest growing populations in Australia.
The facility is the largest of its kind in Queensland, with a licence to treat 350,000 tonnes of contaminated soil and other controlled wastes each year.
The purpose-built facility uses a combination of EPA approved treatment processes to achieve sound environmental outcomes.
Processes include chemical fixation or immobilisation, bioremediation, chemical oxidation and absorption.
Daniel Blair, Hi-Quality Group Waste Treatment Services General Manager, explains that these processes are applied to a wide-range of waste types, with Hi-Quality Group treating 200 litre drums, tanker loads of liquids, truckloads of contaminated soil and everything in-between.
The facility was designed to fill a significant gap in the market, Blair says, with existing treatment facilities built at a time when environmental regulations were less stringent and monitoring less comprehensive.
“The key difference between our facility and others in the market is the environmental outcomes we are delivering,” Blair says.
“We operate the facility to current best practice environmental management regulations – controlling for storm and wastewater discharges, air emissions – all the environmental aspects.
“Yes, treating hazardous waste is nasty, but it has to be done. So, by doing it in the best way we possibly can, we’re providing a better solution for the market.”
By working with large infrastructure projects across the country, Yatala is playing a pivotal role in the treatment and recycling of contaminated soils and regulated wastes.
As a result, Hi-Quality Group is helping maximise landfill diversion, while providing its corporate customers with confidence in knowing their waste will be managed correctly.
“There’s stigma involve with waste, and what we’re doing is trying to erase that by showing both the market and the wider community that it can be done properly,” Blair says.
He adds that Yatala is a negative pressure site, meaning nothing can get out of the facility as air is drawn in.
“The only way air gets out of the facility is through our three-stage air scrubbing system that controls dust and odours,” he says.
“The air goes out post-treatment through two stacks, which are closely monitored and comply with low emissions targets from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science.”
Another point of difference, Blair explains, is that no waste is stored within the yard of the facility, meaning any spills are contained inside.
The facility is also equipped with stormwater protection devices, which can be shut off to prevent wastewater leaking into the stormwater system.
“Our state-of-the-art treatment facility offers a safe and sustainable solution for the treatment of contaminated soils, hazardous wastes, chemicals, waste sludges and wastewater, under ongoing stringent environmental monitoring and controls,” Blair says.
By taking a forward-thinking approach to environmental remediation, Hi-Quality Group can undertake identification, removal and reinstatement work, while also successfully processing contaminated waste.
Cory Menant, Hi-Quality Group Waste Treatment Services National Business Development Manager, explains that all the waste received at Yatala is treated in a fully enclosed environment, thereby eliminating the risk of vapours or fines re-entering the environment.
“The facility operates at the highest standards in the industry. We are working under the same constraints as every other large remediation company, but the difference is we are taking the waste away from the site and controlling risk at our site,” Menant says.
He adds that brownfield developments and industrial areas are primarily located near high population areas, creating issues around social licence and encroachment.
“There is an inherent risk when treating contaminated waste close to populations, so what we’re doing is taking that risk away and treating the material in a highly controlled environment,” Menant says.
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