Thursday 1 November 2018
We are working closely with Maribyrnong City Council and Melbourne Water to restore Stony Creek and the surrounding environment as quickly as possible. We are continuing to monitor air and water quality in the affected areas and provide advice around the potential human health impacts.
This map was generated from Google Maps. The blue line shows the local waterway Stony Creek.
The current advice is:
- The remediation work being conducted by Melbourne Water has removed much of the black sludge and contaminated water in or on the edge of the creek. But if you come into contact with contaminated water or sludge, remove wet clothing and wash the relevant areas of your body with it with warm soapy water.
- Water quality is much improved but it is still recommended to avoid contact with water in Stony Creek.
- Odour levels from the creek have decreased but are still present at times. Avoid the odour if it makes you feel unwell.
- As a precaution avoid eating fish from Stony Creek.
- Don’t let pets swim in the area or drink the water.
- Seek medical help if you feel unwell.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
VOCs are a large group of chemicals that contain carbon and give off vapours into the air. This includes chemicals such as ethanol, acetone, xylene, benzene and toluene. VOCs have a low odour threshold and can be smelt even at low concentrations. VOCs can sometimes be smelt near Stony Creek. Long term health effects are not expected from short term exposures to VOCs.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) air sampling along Stony Creek
Air samples have been collected and analysed in residential and sensitive areas near Stony Creek. Any chemical odour in this area was due to the vapours or VOCs coming from the chemicals in the creek from the water run-off from the fire site. Levels of VOC in the air samples have all been well below health guideline levels.
There was asbestos containing building materials at the site of the fire, so 24-hour airborne asbestos sampling and testing was carried out at various locations near the fire site on 31 August. Further samples have been taken over a 24-hour period on another four occasions. Results from asbestos monitoring so far have all been below the limit of detection. Future airborne asbestos monitoring will be done when high winds are forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology and during major demolition and clean-up activities.
While burning, large amounts of smoke was generated by the fire. EPA monitored the levels of fine particles (PM2.5) near the fire at Footscray, Altona and Brooklyn, as part of EPA’s standard air monitoring network. The 24-hr average levels of fine particles during the fire did not reach unhealthy levels in the community.
Water quality monitoring
This data includes water quality data from 30 August to the most recent available test results, collected on 12 October 2018.
We have tested water for a range of pollutants from the Stony Creek area and continue to advise not to eat fish taken from Stony Creek. However, based on the results of testing of water quality, there are no concerns regarding fishing and other recreational activities in the Lower Yarra River and Hobsons Bay. We advise to avoid contact with the water and sludge in Stony Creek and to keep pets from swimming in it. The results show that a range of industrial chemical solvents, detergents and fire soot particles were washed into Stony Creek. The key chemicals detected were phenol (an industrial chemical and cleaning product), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (fire and soot by-products), chemicals called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene), PFAS (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances), and industrial solvents such as acetone and butanone.
Concentrations of these chemicals were very high in Stony Creek on Thursday 30 August and caused rapid death of fish and aquatic life in Stony Creek and in some cases exceeded human health recreational contact guidelines for several days after the fire.
Conditions in Stony Creek have improved considerably since then due to dilution by creek flows, chemical degradation and clean up undertaken by Melbourne Water, including pumping water from the creek. The latest testing shows that water quality for Cruickshank Park and Hyde Street is generally good and below human health recreational water quality guidelines for recreational contact. However, concentrations of toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene in the water remain above aquatic ecosystem guidelines, which are much lower than the human health guidelines.
West Footscray Fire – results from water quality monitoring
Monocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (MAH), at the fire site (Somerville Road) and two downstream sites from 30/8/2018 to 12/10/2018. The red and green and green lines indicates the recreational water quality and aquatic ecosystem guidelines respectively.
Acetone, methylethylketone, phenol and PFOS at the fire site (Somerville Road) and two downstream sites from 30/8/2018 to 12/10/2018. The red and green lines indicate recreational water quality and aquatic ecosystem guidelines, respectively. Note, acetone and methylethylketone do not have aquatic ecosystem guidelines.
This update includes sediment quality data from 11 September to the most recent available test results collected on 27 September.
We have tested sediments for a range of pollutants from the Stony Creek area since 11/9/2018. Initially concentrations of hydrocarbons in sediments in Stony Creek at Cruickshank Park were above human health recreational water quality guidelines. The latest testing results (27/9/2018) shows that sediment contamination has improved considerably and levels of hydrocarbons are now below guidelines for recreational contact. Concentrations of copper and C10-C40 hydrocarbons were initially high in sediments at Cruickshank Park following the fire and remain above aquatic ecosystem guidelines for sediments. Although contaminant levels in the sediment have declined, disturbing the sediments would mobilise contaminants and could increase the risk of harm to the environment and human health if touched. We continue to advise to avoid contact with the creek in Cruickshank Park until further notice.
Results from sediment quality monitoring
PFOS, copper and C6-C10 (which includes the BTEX chemicals) and C10-C40 hydrocarbons in sediments at site upstream of the fire and two downstream locations from 11/9/2018 to 27/9/2018. The red lines for PFOS and C6-C10 hydrocarbons indicate recreational water quality guidelines. The green lines for copper and C10-C40 hydrocarbons indicate and aquatic ecosystem guidelines.
Notices issued to factory site owners
EPA has also issued a number of notices on the owners of the West Footscray factory fire site.
The notices are an important part of the recovery phase of the incident and aim to secure the site and prevent any further contamination of Stony Creek.
The notices require the site owners to inspect the property daily to check on any materials stored there, install security fences, keep access ways clear, and ensure controls, including contingencies for rainfall, are in place so no run off can enter stormwater drains.
The owners will be required to regularly report their progress to the EPA.
If the notices are not complied with the owner could be fined more than $48,000 plus $8,000 for every day the works are overdue.
EPA, working closely with Maribyrnong City Council and waterway managers have commenced development of a recovery plan for Stony Creek and surrounding areas.
The recovery of Stony Creek and surrounds will take some time, but the Council, supported by EPA will let you know when it’s no longer necessary to avoid contact with the water and how you can be involved in the recovery effort.
EPA and Melbourne Water have placed additional information signs in public access space to keep community informed and further signage will continue to be installed as needed.
Disclaimer: EPA monitoring data in support of the West Footscray/ Tottenham fire recovery is preliminary data. EPA has made every reasonable effort to provide current and accurate information, but it does not make any guarantees regarding the accuracy, currency or completeness of that information/data. This data has not been subject to quality control procedures and is subject to change at any time and is provided for general guidance only and should not be relied on as a complete statement.