Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rising sea levels to impact the waste sector

Garth Lamb in Inside Waste Weekly: Sea level rise is one of the most frightening aspects of global climate change, and last week’s Federal Government report on the topic has highlighted there could potentially be a major impact on coastal waste facilities. Hundreds of low-lying landfills may need to be relocated to prepare for the effects of global warming, an exercise that could possibly cost many millions of dollars.

The Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coast: A First Pass National Assessment report prepared by the Department of Climate Change modeled the impact of sea levels rising 900-1,100mm by 2100. It suggests “at least 41 waste disposal facilities are located within 200m of the coastline” and potentially at risk from the rising oceans. The director consultancy Mike Ritchie and Associates, which was acknowledged for its contribution to the report, points out this figure is only a subset of the 400-600 licensed, operational landfills in Australia.

The DCC report notes there are “possibly several thousand small tips” located in coastal areas. In a preliminary exercise looking at aerial photographs along the Queensland coast, Mike Ritchie identified as many as 200 possible waste sites.

“Many town dumps were located in places that were undesirable or not suitable for community needs, were cheap to procure or required filling,” notes the report. “As a result many old dumps are sited in or adjoining flood prone and low-lying lands. Areas abutting mangroves and salt marshes were, for decades, preferred places for the local tip.”

“Most state and local governments now prevent the construction of new landfills within 100m of a watercourse. However, there is a large legacy of many ‘tips’ and ‘dumps’ long closed, but located in areas vulnerable to the future impacts of climate change and sea-level rise.”…

A garbage dump on the Toronto waterfront, Toronto, Canada. Garbage was dumped between the wharves to extend the land into the harbour. Around 1922

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