ALCOA ‘FOREVER CHEMICAL’ LICENSE APPLICATION
August 3, 2023


Alcoa is reapplying for a license to transport and treat PFAS contaminated water at its Willowdale mine site near Dwellingup after seriously mismanaging the process of dealing with the ‘forever chemical’ last year. 

WAFA encourages everyone with an interest in protecting the jarrah forests, water sources, wildlife and biodiversity, and minimising climate impacts associated with this highly polluting and forest degrading industry to read the documents and make a submission to DWER. 

Documents can be accessed here 
Closing date for submissions is 11th of August 2023 
Submissions should be made to info@dwer.wa.gov.au

In February this year, WA Today exposed the fact that Alcoa had piped the highly toxic chemical over a drinking water dam without approval, having only applied to build a pipeline to move the dangerous chemical after it had already done so.  State government agencies had deemed the plan ‘an alarming prospect’ not realising that Alcoa had already gone ahead. 

The Environmental Protection Act requires that the construction or installation of such wastewater pipelines must be in accordance with license conditions, and Alcoa was ordered to stop using the pipeline and clean it out, but it is unclear whether Alcoa will face any prosecution under WA’s weak environmental compliance and enforcement protocols. 

Alcoa is now applying to amend its original application. This time, Alcoa wants to truck PFAS contaminated water from a part of its Willowdale mine site called Orion which is within a priority one drinking water source area (PDWSA), along Nanga Brook Road, to a treatment facility just outside of the PDWSA, treat it and then discharge it to McKnoes Brook.

We have serious concerns about the risks of transporting PFAS and releasing the treated water into the McKnoes Brook. Alcoa has a terrible track record with chemical and hydrocarbon spills and non-compliance, and PFAS is a highly toxic and dangerous chemical. Is Alcoa being required to meet best-practice PFAS management, who would test the water before it is released, has there been a major step up in monitoring? How can the community trust that this won’t have serious impacts on water quality and safety? 

Alcoa proposes to clear 0.5ha as a part of this application. Its supporting documents state that there is an exemption provided to the company for this clearing so long as the clearing is done in accordance with an approved Mining Management Plan. Alcoa has put forward the 2021-2025 MMP as the approved plan, and this has now been released to the public for the first time. It is not the most current plan, but the 2022-2026 plan has not been approved. 

The MMP that has now been released for the first time contains important information that we encourage people to read, digest and share – including that Alcoa has hopes to clear nearly 4000ha of forest in the MMP period (2021 and 2025), that it is using 1 gigalitre of water in its operations every year, and that the jarrah being sold from its mine-site clearing operations is deemed ‘sustainably sourced’ because the forest is put back afterwards.. 

Thank you for everything you do for the forests, we know that these documents can be lengthy and these processes time-consuming, but it’s critical that we maintain a very high level of vigilance and pressure for the forests and water to be protected. 

In solidarity, the WAFA team. 

Water Authority exclusion sign at drinking water dam