THE Development and Environment Services committee of Upper Hunter Shire Council has supported a DA to upgrade a failing treatment pond on the Scone abattoir site.
The motion in support of the application was put by Cr Kiwa Fisher, seconded by Cr Deidre Peebles and carried at a meeting on Tuesday.
The development application was lodged by JBS Australia, who purchased the Primo operation in March this year.
A report prepared by Council’s Senior Environmental Planner, Paul Smith, was tabled at Tuesday’s meeting.
It noted the proposed anaerobic pond will form part of the waste water treatment system.
The report said there are three existing primary anaerobic ponds on the site, two of which need to be taken off line because they are “full of sludge.”
The development also involves the establishment of a 100m x 50m borrow pit above an existing clean water dam adjacent to the Muffett Street entrance.
The report said surrounding properties were notified of the development proposal between November 6 and 18, 2015 and newspaper ads placed on November 5.
Six submissions were received, among them one from the Environment Protection Authority, that attached a special condition for biogas capture and reuse at Ponds One and Two if the development is approved.
On Tuesday, JBS Scone plant manager, Craig Miller, addressed a small forum of local residents and businesses about the proposed development.
During the meeting Mr Miller was quizzed about odours, effluent irrigation, run-off, crows eating a substance called ‘paunch manure’ and allegedly dropping it in backyards, mosquitos and Q-Fever.
He told the forum JBS had spent $3.5 million in the past four-and-a-half months to rectify issues at the Scone abattoir.
Mr Miller said he accepted issues had arisen with the previous owner, but stressed JBS had a different business model.
The JBS plant manager said Primo had been slaughtering 1100 beasts a day and JBS had reduced that number to 850.
Mr Miller said 350 people had left the Scone abattoir in the past six months and JBS no longer employed people on working holiday visas (Section 417 visas) because the company was trying to recruit Australian residents.
Cr Kiwa Fisher told the meeting JBS Scone would have to do “something special” if approval was to be granted because there were a “lot of fed up people”.
Cr Fisher recalled his participation in a group called Scone Parkville Environment Watch (SPEW) set up to deal with odours generated by the former owner.
Mr Miller agreed JBS was confronting “legacy” issues, but insisted his company was trying to work through them “one step at a time”.
Objectors to the proposal asked Council staff what they thought of the JBS application.
Environment officers told the forum they were satisfied odours would be reduced subject to the pond being operated correctly.
“[The effluent ponds] they’re not efficient at the moment because of their age; they’ve silted up so the application is trying to rectify that problem,” Mr Miller told the Advocate after the meeting.
“The recruitment process is ongoing and we’re putting ads in the paper today [Tuesday] and we know we’ve got to do a lot of work in regards to building the town’s confidence."