Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) says the investigation and management of illegally dumped waste on a property 15 kilometres south of Kaniva will take some time, with the focus on public safety and preventing environmental damage.
EPA Regional Manager North West, Dr Scott Pigdon, says it is a complex operation that will go on for some time, and will remain a priority for EPA.
“Our first concern is protecting the community, and the environment from any potential hazard. The investigation and management of the site will be thorough and can’t be rushed,” Dr Pigdon said.
“When the dump sites were first discovered, EPA alerted West Wimmera Shire Council, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water and other agencies. EPA and GWM Water have been monitoring the site’s groundwater; it shows no signs of contamination, nor is there a risk from chemical vapours,” he said.
GWM Water confirms that testing has revealed no change in the quality of the water in Kaniva and does not anticipate any changes to occur.
“While EPA is still assessing the nature and the amount of waste hidden on the property, the results found so far also show the groundwater is unlikely to be affected,” Dr Pigdon said.
“However, EPA and GWM Water will continue this cautious approach and will expand the groundwater monitoring program onto the property itself,” he said.
With a long way still to go, EPA’s investigation is already a major undertaking. EPA investigators have used aerial drones fitted with Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to search for buried waste; a first for an Australian regulator.
“Locating buried dump sites with potentially different types of waste on such a large property is a big challenge. It is vital that it be done with sufficient care, to ensure the safety of staff working on the site, and to prevent any further damage to the environment or danger to the public,” Dr Pigdon said.
“That same care is being put into the legal process, and that will mean a series of different stages. EPA will direct the landowner to undertake actions to secure the property and understand potential risks on the site, and those actions will lead to the development of a clean-up plan,” he said.
EPA continues to work with other government bodies, such as WorkSafe, CFA and the Grampians Regional Emergency Management Team, and keep other agencies such as Agriculture Victoria informed of any updates. A comprehensive emergency management response plan is being prepared.
EPA will continue to provide regular updates to the public through the EPA website, via e-mail and in local newspapers.
More than 100 community members attended an EPA open house event to learn more about the illegal waste dump site and hear the latest from the government organisations managing the response. When more information is available, EPA plans to hold another event in a redesigned format based on feedback from those who attended the open house.
For regular updates, members of the public can visit the EPA website www.epa.vic.gov.au/kaniva call 1300 EPA VIC or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.