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Issue #1647      July 16, 2014

Replace dirty coal with solar

Alinta Energy is now considering the commercial viability of a solar thermal 50MW stand-alone tower with 15 hours of storage to replace dirty coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta, SA. This is a huge step for everyone in Port Augusta who has been fighting for a solar thermal future for their community.

The two highly polluting power plants, the Northern and Playford, have been and will continue to pollute the township and surrounding countryside until the renewable plant is commissioned and built.

The number of cancers in Port Augusta is double that of the state average. It is known that coal-fired power stations emit toxic particulate, gases, radioactive materials, heavy metals and contaminated waste ash that can cause cancer in humans, contaminate soil, waterways and underground water. Exposure to pollution from the power stations can occur from direct inhalation or indirect exposure, i.e. subsequent ingestion of water, soil, vegetation or meat, eggs, dairy produce and fish that become contaminated through accumulation in the food chain.

Heavy metal toxins

Pollutants for which indirect exposure is especially important include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead. Pollutants are absorbed and distributed in the body and produce systemic effects distant from the entry point of the lungs such as the brain, blood, liver, kidneys, as well as in the lungs.

Will the rate of cancer cases be reduced?

Not unless soil testing is carried out in all residential, commercial premises and farms in the contaminated area around Port Augusta. This needs to be carried out by independent soil testing companies; the results must be made public and remedial action taken. It may include some soil removal as happened at Port Pirie over high lead levels. Water tanks, ceiling spaces, schools and playgrounds need to be tested and decontaminated to reduce the number of future cancers and other illnesses from power station emissions.

The Port Branch of the Communist Party of Australia wrote to the state government on May 22 over pollution in areas of concern at Port Adelaide, calling for atmospheric testing and soil testing. Some areas of Port Adelaide have cancer rates 36 percent above the state average; Port Augusta has 100 percent above and Whyalla 51 percent above the SA average cancer rate. No satisfactory response regarding these three areas of concern has been received at the time of writing.

Next article – Expanding the power of financial institutions

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