Author Archives: John Englart

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)
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Upfield rail line needs upgrading during Camp Rd level crossing removal

Looking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

The state government will be proceeding with the Camp Road level crossing removal commencing later this year, with the crossing removed by early 2018. Now is an ideal time to push for track duplication from Gowrie to Upfield and extension of the Upfield Bike Path to Barry Road.

When construction starts, services on the Upfield line can be expected to terminate at Gowrie station, with a bus service to Upfield replacing the train. There is no estimate for when or how long the disruption might take. While service is disrupted would be an ideal time to actually upgrade and improve the rail line and associated bike path.
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VicRoads housing sub-division application for Merri Creek site adjacent to toxic site

So we have dioxin contaminated site at 100 and 102 McBryde st, Fawkner, and now VicRoads wants to subdivide 104B McBryde street just north of the contaminated site.

Perhaps 25 houses and a road to go in. The subdivision plan encroaches closer than 50 metres to Merri creek which means it fails to comply with Moreland’s open space strategy.

We need a full and open environmental audit of the contaminated site and surrounds before we do any sub-division and development. That’s simple precautionary principle.

The risks from living near a toxic site are not clear, but if not managed properly could have a high impact on population health. We have already seen cancer clusters on McBryde street and in Reservoir in the surrounding area to the NuFarm site in the past.

Therefore we need to use the precautionary principle and oppose this sub-division development until we know the long term remediation and management of the toxic site is in hand.
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Exploring Merlynston Creek from source to confluence

National Boulevard Nature Reserve - 100 photos of Merlynston Creek

In May and June I spent some time cycling along Merlynston creek on several trips, exploring some of it’s secrets. Merlynston Creek is about 11 kilometres long from it’s source in an industrial area in northern Campbellfield, just a little north of the Ford Broadmeadows plant, to it’s confluence with the Merri Creek just north of Coburg Lake.

Merlynston Creek intrigued me. The creek, in it’s passage through Fawkner Cemetery, could be considered Fawkner’s natural geographical western boundary.
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Toxic site would require environmental audit before rezoning could be considered

Currently the owner of 100-102 McBryde street has a planning application to erect two warehouses on the site. The problem is that this property was part of the NuFarm contaminated site.

The property has a clay cap to keep the contaminated and polluted soil in place. So any development that disturbs the clay cap carries a risk of spreading contaminated soil and toxic fumes from the chemicals still in the soil.

The owner had put the property, very briefly, up for sale advertising that the site may be able to be rezoned for residential development. So what would it take to get the site zoned for residential use?

Moreland director of planning and economic development, Kristen Coster, makes clear that any rezoning for residential development would only happen after a statutory environment audit of the site.

The last statutory environment audit ocurred in 1995 which declared that the site was only fit for light industrial use, with stringent conditions for any development on the site to take place.
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Toxic site angers Fawkner residents

Two properties in McBryde street Fawkner were the location of a NuFarm factory which manufactured herbicides, agent orange and other chemicals in the 1960s with dioxin a noted byproduct. The site has been called one of the top 10 most toxic sites in Australia.

Although residents forced the closure of the factory in the early 1970s, it was another 15 years before any site cleanup was done. The last time there was any official inspection was 1995. It is believed that the contaminated area is larger than the two properties where a clay cap keeps much of the contaminated soil contained.

This week the EPA Victoria have taken some soil samples to test for an array of toxic chemicals. What we really require is a thorough environmental audit of the entire site with community input to ensure full transparency on the testing regime. It is suspected that the area of contamination is much wider than the boundaries of the two properties being talked about, so testing should encompass this broader area.

One of the fears is that any development on either site risks penetration of the clay cap and exposure of contaminated soil to the air. This may pose a wind blown toxic danger to residents over a wide area.

The EPA says the clay cap is currently sound but plans shown in the permit application indicate “works for the proposed redevelopment are likely to penetrate the clay cap”. The question that needs to be asked: Are you okay with developers gambling with the health of residents and workers on a known toxic site? Continue reading

Merri Creek bird survey, May 2017

Red-capped Robin


Are you up for some bird surveying in May along Merri Creek? Here is your chance to do some citizen science and help survey the birds at this time of year. Surveys are on 7 May and 21 May, with the Fawkner survey on the latter date.

Beginner-birders are welcome to the surveys, as well as experienced birders.

Bring binoculars if you have them, and closed-in footwear, sun-hat or raingear if necessary, and drinking water.

No dogs, please.
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Oppose development on old NuFarm dioxin manufacturing site in Fawkner

There are plans to build warehouses on the old Nufarm Chemicals site in McBryde St Fawkner. This site was highly contaminated with dioxins when it was operational.

A campaign by local residents who were effected by the toxic fumes, particularly Elsie Snowden from the Fawkner Progress Association succeeded in closing the plant down.

Local residents are opposed to any development occurring on the site because even cement footings for warehouses will pierce the clay cap and could cause the toxic fumes to be released again. Local residents are forming an action group to oppose the proposal and to make sure that the current generation knows how toxic this site is.

The original #EPA audit of the site only audited the two central sites of the old factory and not the surrounding sites which are likely to also be contaminated.

Residents meetings:
When: at 2 PM – 4 PM on Saturday 22 April
Where: Fawkner Community House, 95 Major Rd
,

The next meeting of the action group to stop development on the toxic site at 102 McBryde st will be on:
Wednesday 3 May, 7pm @ the 95 Major Road site of Fawkner Community House.

Community meeting – Thursday 11 May, 7pm – 10pm @ Fawkner Senior Citizens Centre
Sue Bolton has initiated a public meeting in her role as a councillor. The meeting is on Thursday 11 May, 7pm at the Fawkner Senior Citizens Centre.
Register at Facebook event

Speakers at the public meeting are: Harry van Moorst (Western Region Environment Centre & long-term campaigner on toxic chemical issues); Percy Pillai (Health & Safety officer for Australian Workers Union & rep for retired workers with serious health effects from spraying the chemicals produced on the Nufarm site in Fawkner); Brian Snowden, local resident; Sue Bolton, plus others (seeking an environmental scientist)

There are more background details both from Cr Bolton and Council officers in the report and motion that was put forward by Cr Sue Bolton at Moreland Council meeting 12 April 2017. I have excerpted the 3 page item from the publicly available Council agenda : NOM19/17 TOXIC SITE IN FAWKNER (D17/109333)
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Upgrade for Merri Creek Park at Campbellfield while connecting cycling paths remain missing

Panorama of Merri Creek and Merri Gorge, Campbellfield

The State Government announced $1.7 million upgrade to develop visitor infrastructure, including 6km of new bike and walking paths, at Merri Creek Park in Campbellfield. But we are still to see any commitment to build important bicycle shared use paths in Campbellfield: the extension of Merri Creek Trail and Extension of the Upfield bike path to Barry Road at Upfield.

The Money for the Merri Creek Park facilities comes from the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution (GAIC) fund. The 6 km of new paths will improve some community access to the 650 hectare green space in Campbellfield, which hosts nationally significant native grasslands. It is a real pity there is no public commitment from state MPs to fund the missing links that would help connect the park and local residential suburbs.

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Consultation on Camp Road Level Crossing Removal (implications for Upfield bike path)

Looking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

Loomking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

Today I went on a scouting trip along the Upfield railway line to Camp Road, the site of a level crossing removal to start in the later part of 2017 and be completed by 2019.

I have come to the conclusion:

The Upgrade of the Camp Road level crossing needs to include either a tunnel for cyclists as part of the railway in trench design, or pedestrian lights to allow cyclists to cross Camp Road in safety.

The consultation and community engagement is at The Meadows Greyhound Racing track.

  • Monday 6 February 2017, 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows.
  • Saturday 11 February 2017, 10:00am to 12 noon. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows

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