Tour de France faces protest over Orica's toxic waste export from Australia

Friday's stage passes destination of 15,000 tonnes of banned fungicide

by John Stevenson   July 14, 2014  

Orica Greenedge team bus 1

The Tour de France may find itself blocked by protesters later this week as French environmentalists plan to target the race over Australian chemical company Orica’s plans to export toxic waste to France for incineration.

Orica – title sponsor of the Orica-GreenEdge team - plans to ship its stockpile of hexachlorobenzene to the town of Salaise-sur-Sanne in the Rousillon area, where it will be incinerated.

Friday’s stage 13 of the Tour passes just a few kilometres north of Salaise-sur-Sanne on its way from Saint-Etienne to the mountain top finish of Chamrousse. Protesters have told French newspapers this stage is likely to be the target of a protest, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Environmental groups have long opposed the shipping out of Australia of hexachlorobenzene, which is a by-product of the manufacture of other chemical products.

Hexachlorobenzene was formerly used as a fungicide but is banned globally under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. It has been shown to cause cancer in animals, is considered a probable carcinogen in humans and is highly toxic to aquatic organisms.

Environmental groups have long opposed the export of hexachlorobenzene from Australia. Groups including Doctors for the Environment Australia, Friends of the Earth, the Nature Conservation Council, The National Toxics Network, and Greenpeace Australia recently wrote to Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt to urge that the waste be destroyed in Australia.

The groups argued that destruction technologies are available and could be set up in Australia and said that Australia has an obligation under international conventions to destroy its own toxic waste.

“These have the potential to destroy the HCB waste in a way that achieves a far better environmental outcome than incineration. Treatment in Australia also avoids most of the risks associated with the transport of the waste across the globe,” the letter read.

According to the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority, 15,000 tones of hexachlorobenzene is stored at Orica’s plant at Botany Bay, south of Sydney.

Orica has twice before attempted to ship the waste overseas for incineration, but was prevented by brotests from moving it to Germany in 2007 and Denmark in 2010.

An Orica spokesman said the company is committed to finding a solution to the issue of the HCB stockpile at Botany.

“Orica has worked closely with the Botany [Council] and surrounding community for many years to understand issues of importance to the community. Orica is confident that the current proposal is safe, environmentally sustainable, respects Australia’s international treaty obligations and meets the community’s expectations,” the spokesman said.

8 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

They're probably worried the lorry carrying it will get stuck under a bridge.

posted by Mr Agreeable [151 posts]
14th July 2014 - 11:59

54 Likes

ooh, this is not good ...

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
14th July 2014 - 17:41

26 Likes

It does seem ludicrously risky to ship such a large quantity of what is a nasty persistent organochlorine pesticide half way around the globe. Moreover, unless incineration is absolutely spot on in terms of the three T's of combustion (Time Turbidity and Temperature) highly toxic dioxins released into the atmosphere settling on local areas is the likely result - even if fly ash is scrubbed you have to deal with it (and the bottom ash) afterward. As it is reported there has to be a better (but I guess more immediately costly to Orica) way of dealing with this.

posted by IHphoto [112 posts]
14th July 2014 - 18:21

30 Likes

" is highly toxic to aquatic organisms"
It's not like ships ever sink or ISO containers ever fall off ships... all the time D Oh

SamSkjord's picture

posted by SamSkjord [22 posts]
14th July 2014 - 18:32

23 Likes

Is it coincidence that no Orica rider was spotted doing anything remotely interesting in today's stage? Instructions from the bosses to keep out of the papers for a change?

posted by chokofingrz [320 posts]
14th July 2014 - 20:06

27 Likes

SamSkjord wrote:
" is highly toxic to aquatic organisms"
It's not like ships ever sink or ISO containers ever fall off ships... all the time D Oh

Indeed , although if it did it would most likely be released over many years slowly giving organisms a lower than acutely lethal dose that would be concentrated up the food chain as it gets deposited in fatty tissue. Then we'd eat it. Charming.

posted by IHphoto [112 posts]
14th July 2014 - 20:22

26 Likes

Typical Australians. They prevent you from taking in a wooden colouring pencil into their country due to the risk of fungi in the wood/bark. Yet, they choose to export their toxic crap to other countries.

Sort your own toxins out!

posted by indyjukebox [52 posts]
14th July 2014 - 22:24

14 Likes

Here's a Sixty Minutes documentary transcript with video link) that reports what has happened to the site where the HCB is stored, over the years. It was run by ICI Australia until that arm was sold off and became Orica:

http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/stories/tarabrown/259409/a-deadly-legacy

It's no wonder the French (and before them the Germans and the Danes) don't want it shipped to them and the site it's currently stored on is a terrible blight on the Sydney suburb with a huge groundwater pollution problem going back decades.

posted by IHphoto [112 posts]
15th July 2014 - 0:14

6 Likes