The Department of Environment and Science (DES) is s considering whether a Bundaberg East property should be listed on the environmental management register after contamination concerns were raised.

Earlier this week DES was assessing the contamination status of potentially affected residential properties adjacent to the Ampol Caltex depot on Collins St in Bundaberg under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

A spokesperson told the NewsMail this week the residential land at 2 Collins St Bundaberg was not on the Contaminated Land Register however the department was considering a potential EMR listing

“DES’s consideration follows the statutory process as set out in Queensland law which also affords review and appeal rights to the owners of land proposed to be listed,” the spokesperson said.

DES previously stated Ampol’s property was listed on the Contaminated Land Register, however, the residential properties have not been listed or included with Ampol’s listing.

An Ampol spokesperson said the company had identified hydrocarbon contamination in the soil and groundwater surrounding its Bundaberg Depot and beneath five nearby residential properties.

“The contamination does not present risk to human health as confirmed by comprehensive and ongoing testing and monitoring,” the spokesperson said.

“PFAS contamination has also been found beneath the Bundaberg Depot, in roadside reserve wells and on one residential property which is the furthest of the five properties impacted away from the depot.

“Comprehensive and ongoing testing and monitoring to date has shown this contamination in its current site setting does not present risk to human health.”

The Ampol spokesperson said it’s believed the hydrocarbon contamination was related to the historical operation of the site.

The Bundaberg Depot has operated for over 80 years, with Ampol taking ownership of the site in 1995.

Since discovering the contamination and notifying DES, the spokesperson said Ampol had worked with the department, an independent contaminated land auditor and environmental consultants to deliver comprehensive investigative testing and monitoring work.

“These works take time and have been required to understand the scope of contamination and ensure there is no ongoing risk to human health, while also informing the development of remediation plans,” the spokesperson said.

” In June 2020, the DES issued a Clean-Up Notice to deliver remediation works which Ampol will comply with.”

The DES spokesperson said to date, Ampol have been compliant with the requirements of the Clean and Notice and the notice continues to remain in force.

“The Clean Up notice requires Ampol to implement a groundwater monitoring program to monitor and evaluate changes in concentrations of contaminants in soil and groundwater,” the spokesperson said.

“As a result of the Clean Up notice, Ampol has submitted a monitoring program and are conducting trials to remediate on and off-site contamination.”

In a similar fashion to reading food product labels, there’s a way in which you can check if a particular parcel of land is known to be contaminated.

Only difference is you typically have to pay for the information and just because it’s not listed on the register doesn’t mean it’s not contaminated – the department just doesn’t know about it.

DES manages an environmental management register and a contaminated land register that contain information about contaminated, or potentially contaminated land in Queensland.

A DES spokesperson said when land was listed on the EMR it did not necessarily mean the owner had to do anything, this would depend on the land’s current or proposed use.

“Land is moved from the EMR to the CLR where it is necessary to remediate the land to prevent serious environmental harm and protect human health,” the spokesperson said.

“Residential land can be listed on the EMR and CLR.”

The EMR and CLR are public registers that can be searched for a fee.

Anyone in Bundaberg that wishes to know whether their land, or land they are considering buying or developing, is listed on these registers can request a EMR and CLR search.

The DES spokesperson said the Queensland Government does not pay compensation for land that is listed on either the EMR or CLR.

“Where clean-up is required, responsibility generally rests with the party responsible for the contamination,” the spokesperson said.

The Ampol spokesperson said the company had engaged with owners and resident of the “small number of impacted properties” since 2017.

“Initial engagement was to deliver investigative and testing work and the results of all testing and monitoring have been shared with residents,” the spokesperson said.

“More recently, work in and around these properties has been required to test remediation techniques and this program of work has informed our remediation plans which will commence in 2021.

“In October 2019, Ampol received an approach from a property owner requesting that Ampol acquire their property.”

After engaging with the owner and their legal representation for more than a year they “respectfully declined the offer to acquire the property”.

“However, while the contamination presents no health risks to residents, we acknowledge the issues created and the potential disruption from ongoing remediation works,” the spokesperson said.

“For this reason, we have made an offer to further engage with the owner to endeavour to appropriately compensate for this legacy issue.

“Details related to these ongoing discussions between the two parties will be confidential.

“Ampol will also continue to engage with DES and proactively with property owners and the broader community as we deliver remediation works.”

Contaminated sites can be identified through a variety of ways, including where DES investigates a matter after receiving information that a site may be contaminated, or where land is being used (or has been used in the past) for a particular “notifiable activity”.

There are 38 notifiable activities listed in the Environmental Protection Act 1994 including abrasive blasting, aerial spraying, asbestos manufacture or disposal, asphalt or bitumen manufacture, battery manufacture or recycling, chemical manufacture or formulation, coal fired power station, coal gas works, drum reconditioning or recycling, explosives production or storage, herbicide or pesticide manufacture.

Landfill, livestock dop or spray race operations, metal treatment or coating, petroleum or petrochemical industries including operating a petrol depot, terminal or refinery; or operating a facility for the recovery, reprocessing or recycling of petroleum-based materials, pharmaceutical manufacture and railway yards are also listed.

The DES spokesperson said residential development in Queensland was primarily a planning matter for the respective local council; however, in certain circumstances DES would provide advice to councils on development applications.

“It is not appropriate to specify particular contamination issues in any locality in Queensland, including Bundaberg, as most industrial precincts will have lawful notifiable activities occurring there and most will not be required to be listed on the EMR or the CLR,” the spokesperson said.

Members of the public are encouraged to notify DES of pollution events and pollution related compliance issues by phoning the pollution hotline 1300 130 372.

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