Own AGL (ASX:AGL) shares? Report finds 73 environmental risks at power plant

One of AGL’s coal-fired power stations is at the centre of controversy

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Those holding AGL Energy Limited (ASX: AGL) shares might want to keep an eye on the controversy surrounding the company’s Bayswater power station after it was found to house risky conditions capable of harming nearby residents.

An activist group uncovered an internal review on the state of the power station through Freedom of Information. The risks discovered by the review have been backed by an anonymous whistleblower, according to the group.

At the time of writing, the AGL share price is $5.40, 2.35% lower than it was at yesterday’s close.

For context, the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) is currently up 0.71%.

Review of Bayswater failures uncovered

Healthy Futures, a group of activist healthcare workers, has uncovered an internal review of the Bayswater power station in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley. The review highlights 73 key risks scattered across nearly all parts of the station.

They include the failure of filter bags – designed to trap particle pollutants. According to Healthy Futures, the whistleblower has watched “clouds of ash being released” into the atmosphere.

The ash spill was apparently caused by the failure of a valve in one of the ash collection silos and “filter bags not actually filtering toxic pollutants due to cheap, poor quality materials used”.

The review also details damaged and deteriorating pipework, as well as contaminated liquid entering stormwater systems.

Finally, it uncovered more than a dozen improperly inspected or maintained plant parts.

AGL purchased the Bayswater power station from the New South Wales Government in 2014. Since then, it’s committed to spending around $42 million on environmental improvement programs.

A spokesperson for the company commented:

The outcomes of the review… will ensure that the site can continue to meet its environmental performance requirements until the end of its operating life.

AGL maintains comprehensive HSE policies, standards and training across its sites, and has at all times proactively complied with its obligation to inform the NSW EPA of any notifiable environmental incidents.

A risk to locals’ health

The activist group states ash released by the Bayswater power plant poses a serious health risk to residents.  

In 2009, Upper Hunter GP Dr Tuan Au found particle pollution from coal-burning increases the risk of asthma, respiratory diseases, and premature death in locals.

Tuan’s research found 1 in 6 children in the region had diminished lung capacity.

Additionally, research published in 2020 found PM2.5, a fine particle pollutant from coal and gas-fired power stations, shortens the collective lives of Greater Sydney residents by 620 years annually.

AGL share price snapshot

This year hasn’t been kind to the AGL share price.

Today’s dip included, the company’s shares are trading for 55% less than they were at the start of 2021.

They have also fallen around 2% over the last month.

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Motley Fool contributor Brooke Cooper has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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