A fire burning near tonnes of dangerous chemicals could wipe out half a city and cut power, an anti-waste group believes.
A fire burning near tonnes of dangerous chemicals could wipe out half a city and cut power, an anti-waste group believes.

Fears fire could ignite 500 tonnes of nitrate

Fire at a dump west of Brisbane could ignite more than 500 metric tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate and create an explosion similar to the deadly Beirut blast, an anti-waste advocate warns.

There are fears blazes at Cleanaway's New Chum site could ignite a separate fire at Sun Mining Services' nearby explosives manufacturing facility where an advocate says Ammonium Nitrate and 900 tonnes of other chemical is stored.

Ipswich Residents Against Toxic Environments (IRATE) Secretary Geoff Yarham, a vocal opponent of dumps in the region, said an uncontrolled blaze Cleanaway's dump could spread to the manufacturing facility and create an explosion similar to the one which wiped out Beirut this month, killing 181 people.

Mr Yarham said the chemical facility, located on the southern tip of Cleanaway's dump, was at risk considering the semi-regular occurrence of fires at the site.

On July 17 and 19 two fires were reported at the Cleanaway dump.

Mr Yarham said a southerly wind would have put the chemical manufacturing plant at risk.

"If an ember fell on the 500 metric tonne of ammonium nitrate and 900 metric tonne of other dangerous chemicals … it would have been goodbye to most of East Ipswich," he said.

"It's all sitting on pallets with a tarp over the top."

 

A fire at Cleanaway's New Chum landfill site on July 19. Picture: Supplied
A fire at Cleanaway's New Chum landfill site on July 19. Picture: Supplied

 

However, Sun Mining Services Director Hossein Asgari said the chemical was stored safely and according to national guidelines.

"Ammonium Nitrate is stored and used in Australia all over the place," he said.

"There is nothing unusual or sinister about storage of Ammonium Nitrate in workplaces in Australia.

"For the sake of public safety and as part of complying with security protocols, the details of security sensitive substance storage including location, the quantity and other measures are deemed confidential information and out of the reach of public."

About 3000 tonne of Ammonium Nitrate is used each day in Queensland, primarily in the mining industry.

The Beirut blast occurred when about 2750 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut exploded, shattering windows up to 9km away.

Mr Yarham said a blast could knock out the Greenbank power line and cut electricity to Brisbane for a lenghty period.

Cleanaway said it had appropriate fire management processes, and played down fears a fire could spread south.

"In the rare event that a fire does occur, the plan is enacted to ensure the fire is contained on site," a spokesman said.

"Cleanaway takes compliance with the legal and regulatory requirements relating to operations at the New Chum Landfill Facility very seriously."

 

 

 

Originally published as 'Brisbane's Beirut': Fears fire could ignite 500t of nitrate


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