Gawler Council has been forced to reduce the sale price for a former Country Fire Service training site at Evanston Gardens after soil tests found it was contaminated with a firefighting chemical.
The 9000 sqm block on the corner of Angle Vale Rd and Jack Cooper Dve was initially going to be sold to Peregrine Corporation for $1.31 million as part of a sale of council assets to raise $2.4 million to cover the costs of its new civic centre.
However, soil testing by Peregrine during due digilence discovered widespread contamination by PFAS, a chemical contained in a firefighting foam sprayed on the site by the CFS.
PFAS has become the subject of international attention, with growing concerns it could be harmful to humans.
The discovery of the PFAS contamination prompted Peregine to ask for the sale price to be reduced by $270,000.
The company — which owns the OTR service station chain — argued it would have to spend a minimum of $300,000 to remediate the site.
Under existing regulations, soil containing PFAS cannot be removed from its existing location and must be sealed on site with no risk of leakage.
Environmental reports obtained by council and Peregrine had conflicting opinions on the extent of the contamination — and how much remediation was required.
However, both agreed the risk to nearby properties — which include houses, a primary school, public library and community centre — was low because the PFAS was separated from groundwater by a thick layer of clay.
A confidential staff report released by council said soil testing “has indicated that the PFAS contamination is potentially widespread across the site, to a depth of up to 4m”.
“Given the shallow depth of the contamination and a clay layer existing at approx 6m below ground level, it is unlikely that any aquifers have been affected by the PFAS contamination,” it said.
“Although the likelihood of groundwater contamination is low, the quantity of PFAS affected soil on site is potentially significant.
“The quantity and the current Environment Protection Authority (EPA) restriction of removing this contamination from site has resulted in Peregrine Corporation seeking a reduction in the purchase price offered.”
Peregrine raised concerns with council about the excavation of thousands of tonnes of soil at the site for underground tanks to hold petrol and diesel.
In its report, council acknowledged ensuring the soil was correctly handled would cost the company a substantial amount of money.
“Although it appears there may be multiple solutions to the treatment of PFAS affected soils and the site generally, there will be some significant costs incurred in the management of this risk on the site,” it said.
The staff report said Peregrine was still interested in buying the land, despite the PFAS contamination, if the sale price was cut by $270,000 and no planning approval was required for a service station.
“Should council not seek to negotiate, Peregine may terminate the contract on the basis of the environment findings and council will be required to relist the property on the market,” it said.
“With the results of the Fyfe (environmental) report now known, it is highly likely that any future sale will be at a significantly reduced price and the market for potential purchasers is reduced.”
Peregrine bought the land after council agreed to the reduce the sale price by $200,000. The deal was settled late last month.
Extracted from Daily Telegraph