By Greg Hocking
Since 2016 a small community group in the City of Cockburn has been campaigning to get Cockburn Cement Limited (CCL) to stop burning coal and to take other measures to reduce the toxic gases and particulates being emitted from its lime/ cement factory in the suburb of Munster.
Cockburn Pollution Stoppers began with three residents who were concerned about odours and dust from the factory affecting the lives and possibly the health of their local community. They organised meetings with other interested residents to establish plans to achieve the changes the community needed. Over time the group set up a Facebook page and website, and distributed thousands of leaflets in the area to raise awareness of what toxic gases and particulates were being emitted by the factory and the adverse effects they can have on health.
The group also developed contacts in the media resulting in the issue being publicised in The West Australian, community newspapers, radio and commercial television as well as on digital news media websites.
They developed personal contacts with other groups working for change, including 350.org and Market Forces, which also assisted in raising a more general awareness of the health risks associated with burning large quantities of coal in densely populated suburbs of Perth.
Ultimately, Cockburn Pollution Stoppers organised a Petition to the Legislative Council of the WA Parliament which attracted 806 signatures plus another 817 via a change.com petition. The Petition was submitted to Parliament on 13 May 2020.
On 19 May 2020, Adelaide Brighton Limited (CCL’s owner) announced at its Annual General Meeting:
“Our use of coal is limited to lime operations in WA where we are phasing out the use of coal by early 2021.”
CCL has also now applied for a fourfold increase in the capacity of its Portland cement milling operation at Kwinana and this polluting activity at the Munster factory can be closed once approval is granted and the expanded plant has been commissioned.
These two changes will substantially reduce the quantity of particulates and toxic gases being emitted and will eliminate the sources of heavy metals which have been entering the local community.
Other measures to further reduce toxic gas and particulate emissions are now being considered by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and by the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Public Affairs.
The community remains hopeful that additional pollution abatement measures listed in their Petition will also be mandated in the new future.