Environmental impacts of abrasive blasting of transmission towers in protected areas

Nicole Lashmar*, Simon Young Berryman, Michael J. Liddell, Anthony L. Morrison, Lucas A. Cernusak, Tobin D. Northfield, Stephen Goosem, Bruce Jennison

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    In Australia, and other parts of the world, tower infrastructure in electricity transmission networks are nearing the end of their asset life. In changing economic, political and regulatory environments Transmission Network Service Providers are implementing new approaches to asset management and reinvestment, such as refurbishment to extend the life of existing assets, instead of replacement. As part of these refurbishment efforts, abrasive blasting and recoating is being employed to remove corrosion and extend the life of steel electricity transmission towers. New controls and procedures have been developed to manage the most likely impacts associated with the abrasive blasting of transmission towers. However, little or no data have been available on the environmental impacts of abrasive blasting or the effectiveness of management procedures currently being used to mitigate potential adverse environmental impacts.We conducted an integrated study on the impacts of abrasive blasting, which brought together on-site research; modelling; and controlled laboratory trials. The study was undertaken during a transmission tower refurbishment project within the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics Region in Queensland, Australia. Measured metal deposition around towers due to blasting, was primarily as large particles (>PM10) at 12–30 m from the tower. Soil concentrations of metals were highest under towers, with a small number of samples showing elevated zinc at 12–30 m. The presence of spent abrasive media and dust on the geofabric material used under the towers and up to 15 m from the tower base, as part of control measures used to contain the abrasive products, indicates that deposition also occurs between 0 and 12 m from the tower.The potential impacts of the abrasive blasting technique on plants and invertebrates appear to be low. Five species of tropical rainforest tree seedlings exposed to abrasive blasting dust at worst-case levels had no negative impact on physiological performance or plant health. This research will assist Transmission Network Service Providers and other operators of corroded linear infrastructure to plan and implement mitigating management actions and procedures during abrasive blasting projects and assist regulators and the community to better understand the impacts of the practice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number109430
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Environmental Management
    Volume252
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2019

    Keywords

    • Abrasive blasting
    • Transmission towers
    • Refurbishment
    • Environmental management
    • Plant metal uptake
    • Soil contamination

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