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2010 Case Study: Research on low level fluoride emissions and the Kangaroo population
The Portland Aluminium facility was first termed ‘Smelter in the Park’ during the early 1990s, as the 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of buffer land inside the plant boundaries were turned into wetlands and parklands, complete with recreational trails and activities for the community and employees to enjoy. Managing such an ambitious project has brought with it many challenges as well as benefits.
One of these challenges is to understand and manage the potential link between low-level fluoride emissions from the smelter and the macropod (kangaroo) population that regularly grazes close to the smelter. This link was originally identified by a recent research program conducted with the University of Melbourne and preliminary findings indicate that some kangaroos may have been affected by fluorosis, causing arthritic conditions and lameness.
As a result of these concerns, Portland Aluminium has developed a robust management plan to minimise the potential for fluoride emissions to further affect the health of this macropod population. The management plan was developed in March 2010 in conjunction with fauna and flora experts from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the University of Melbourne, Greening Australia and an international environmental specialist with experience in smelters. The plan focuses on five key areas: exclusion, habitat modification, population management, water management and continued research.
Implementation of the management plan began in 2010 and progress thus far includes fencing off exclusion zones (to keep macropods farther away from the smelter), developing a re-vegetation plan with Greening Australia and further monitoring the macropod populations.
The local community has been kept informed of these activities via the Portland Aluminium Community Advisory Network and progress updates are issued to other key stakeholders on a regular basis.
Current monitoring results place Portland Aluminium among the top 5% of all smelters globally with the least fluoride emissions and at levels well within human health guideline values. Despite this, our key priority beyond implementing the management plan is to continue minimising smelter fluoride emissions. In 2010 Portland Aluminium achieved its lowest fluoride emissions rate — 0.27 kilograms per tonne of aluminium produced — in the past ten years.