POLL: Stockton fights Incitec plant plans

STOCKTON residents should put up with more noise from Kooragang Island because their suburb was an ‘‘interface’’ with industry, explosives maker Incitec has said.

The suggestion has outraged Stockton residents, who are expected to pack a meeting at Stockton Senior Citizens Hall at 7o’clock tonight to discuss Incitec’s plan to build a new ammonium nitrate plant on Kooragang.

Residents and environmental activists are also adamant that Incitec has underestimated the explosive risk on Kooragang, despite the company saying it had paid ‘‘particular’’ attention to a massive blast in Toulouse, France, in 2001.

Incitec is planning two new ammonium nitrate plants, one on Kooragang next to rival Orica and the other in the United States, but investment analysts expect only one of the projects to proceed if approved.

Incitec’s call for the state government to relax industrial noise limits is in an environmental assessment on display for public comment until October 29.

Incitec says noise measurements it took in February showed Orica noise on Stockton was already six or seven decibels above night-time limits even though the plant was operating below capacity.

‘‘Whilst the appropriate zoning in Stockton is recognised as suburban, considering the 

adjoining industrial zone it must be noted that a suburban/industrial interface exists," Incitec says.

"As the existing level of industrial noise exceeds noise amenity criteria recommended by the EPA's Industrial Noise Policy by a significant margin, alternate operational noise criteria has been nominated for the project."

Incitec said the EPA policy did not recognise "suburban/industrial interfaces" so it was "considered appropriate to relax the recommended levels for suburban areas by five decibels".

The proposed Incitec plant could meet noise limits in the long-term, but it wanted the EPA to consider it and Orica as one noise source and expected Orica to cut its noise in line with EPA requirements.

Stockton resident Jo Grieg said industrial noise from Orica and the coal loaders had become steadily louder over the seven years since she and her family moved to the suburb from Camden.

"It's certainly too noisy to sleep with a window even slightly open," Mrs Grieg said.

Mayfield resident John Hayes, whose Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield group will take part in the meeting, said the Incitec plant should be rejected outright.

"When the Orica controversy was going the government said you wouldn't build a plant like that there now but it was a historical thing and so we had to put up with it," Mr Hayes said.

"But now Incitec wants to do precisely that, right next door."

Stockton Community Action Group spokesman Keith Craig said the Toulouse explosion that killed 30 people and injured 15,000 involved just 300 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.

Between them Orica and Incitec could have more than 20,000 tonnes of product stored on Kooragang.

Mr Craig said Incitec was under pressure to move an ammonium nitrate stockpile from Port Adelaide after the South Australian equivalent of WorkCover said it was an explosive threat.

Incitec said it was responding to the Newcastle Herald's questions; Orica said it was reviewing Incitec's documents.

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