Question in Parliament on Fawkner Toxic Site

Just for the record, this question was asked in State Parliament on 8th June by Greens MLC Colleen Hartland covering both reform of the EPA and the management plan for the Fawkner Toxic site.

The EPA conducted tests in April. I understand these tests amounted to surface water from behind 100-102 McBryde Street and water in Merri Creek. The question needs to be asked: were these tests sufficient to report “no contamination beyond the site”? We don’t know the exact location where these samples were undertaken. We are still waiting for test results from Germany regarding furans and dioxins.

See below for a 1990 map indicating the possible extent of contamination:

1990 map of toxic zone area to be fenced off in Fawkner

We do know that the owners have drilled some holes to test the depth of the clay cap at 102 McBryde street, and their limited testing of the soil beneath the cap found it was still contaminated at a level consistent with the 1995 environmental audit report.

You can access the 1995 Environmental Audit report at the EPA Interaction Portal. (Enter Transaction #: 8000314 for Audit Report, Executive Summary and Appendices)

Thursday, 8 June 2017 – from Hansard (PDF)

Fawkner land contamination
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) — My question is for Mr Jennings for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. Minister, while the review of the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has been welcomed, we are waiting to see how this will actually assist the community. There are serious issues that a number of communities are facing in regard to legacy sites. One of these is what was the Nufarm site at McBryde Street, Fawkner, which was closed in 1974. While the site at the time was decontaminated and capped, there are — and I believe they are justified — concerns from the community about how effective this was as it appears to still be leaking. Minister, what is the management plan for these sites and many other contaminated legacy sites across Victoria where there is no longer a company, person or authority responsible for these sites?

Mr JENNINGS (Special Minister of State) — I thank Ms Hartland for her question and her concern. There was an interesting construct to the question, which was to ask the government to account for reforms in relation to the EPA, which was a broad, open question in relation to us making sure that we have sufficient resources and legislative cover so that the EPA acquits its responsibilities better into the future. Certainly the resource allocation was provided in the budget. There is a piece of legislation coming in relation to improving the scope and the reliability of the delivery of the EPA’s responsibilities to the Victorian community, which would include the environmental protection measures that the member is actually looking for. Generally, the budget allocations have already been made — in fact they increased resource capacity for the EPA — but in fact additional legislation and organisational change is on the horizon, and the Parliament will be having an opportunity to deal with those matters shortly.

The member then narrowcast it in relation to one specific site within Fawkner — and good on her for representing the good citizens of Fawkner in terms of what might be the appropriate management plan for that location — and then she broadened it out again to actually talk about what is the management plan about all legacy sites. I think within the scope of the narrowing and the broadening that actually occurred in the second half of her question there are two prongs in the trident. I will try to seek some advice from my colleague the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change to actually be able to respond as to the way in which the EPA and other agencies will acquit their management plan obligations in relation to those legacy sites.

Written Response to question without notice from Hansard (PDF)

Fawkner land contamination
Question asked by: Ms Hartland
Directed to: Special Minister of State

Asked on: 8 June 2017
RESPONSE:

The Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has advised that the former Nufarm site at 102 McBryde Street, Fawkner, presents limited risk to the environment and human health. This advice is based on a previous environmental audit under the Environment Protection Act 1970, as well as a recent site inspection and testing in April 2017.

The recent test results show no contamination beyond the site, and no contamination in Merri Creek. EPA has recently briefed Moreland City Council on this matter, and to provide further confidence to the local community, EPA has also requested further analysis of samples, the results of which will be provided to Moreland City Council. Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 the land owner is responsible to ensure any future purchaser of the site is provided with a copy of the environmental audit statement.

On 17 January this year I announced the Andrews Labor Government’s response to the Independent Inquiry into the EPA. In the recent Budget, I was pleased to announce an unprecedented investment of $162.5 million into the reform of the EPA.

These important reforms include the development of a comprehensive statewide database of sites that pose a high risk to the community because of their past use. This database will:
– include past uses of potentially contaminated sites. Guidance materials will be provided so that the information can be easily interpreted; and
– inform the community of potential contamination risks and support informed decision making by individuals, government and councils.

On 6 June I introduced the Environment Protection Bill 2017 into Parliament. This is the first of two pieces of legislation to overhaul the Environment Protection Act and make the EPA a fit for purpose, modern regulator.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is leading a comprehensive process to reform and better integrate planning and environmental regulation, policy and management of legacy contamination risks. These reforms will include changes to the Environment Protection Act and environmental and planning statutory instruments to position EPA and planning decision— makers to identify and consistently screen potentially contaminated sites according to risk, including through: expanded notification requirements; providing for proportionate clean up; and strengthening monitoring and enforcement of audit conditions with increased transparency and clarified responsibilities.

These reforms will be supported by enhanced information for landowners and the broader community.

These reforms are focused on supporting the safe and efficient redevelopment of legacy contaminated sites and will complement reforms designed to prevent contamination and target early interventions.

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