Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has determined that part of North Wangaratta Recreation Reserve can be reopened to the community within the next few weeks.
EPA North East Regional Manager Emma Knights said lead contamination had impacted soil and groundwater at the oval but the soil contamination was limited to the oval’s south-east corner and to the Wangaratta Clay Target Club (the club) area.
“EPA has decided the oval can be re-opened if the contaminated portion is cordoned off with appropriate fencing and a management plan developed to mitigate any public health risks,” Ms Knights said.
“There will also be updated signage installed at the site advising members of the public to continue to avoid the fenced area and the remainder of the oval will need to be cleared up, mainly through mowing, to ensure it is fit for use as soon as practicable.”
Ms Knights said EPA would work with the Rural City of Wangaratta (the council) and sporting groups on the installation of temporary fencing, and development of the management plan, to ensure the community could return to part of the oval in the coming weeks.
EPA has advised the club that shooting activities can resume pending approval from all relevant authorities, although all shooting must be conducted in accordance with a contamination management plan reviewed by EPA.
In response to an EPA notice, council is supporting the club to prepare a detailed clean-up plan and environment management plan for the recreation reserve and shooting range.
Ms Knights said groundwater samples analysed from the reserve in an environmental site assessment were found to have levels of lead above the health guideline levels outlined in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG).
“EPA advises that groundwater in the area may be contaminated and shouldn’t be used for drinking, and that groundwater used for other purposes should be tested regularly to ensure its suitability for those uses,” she said.
Residents seeking further information about private water supplies should visit: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/water/private-drinking-water-supplies
Ms Knights said the club would be required to undertake a further assessment of groundwater to understand the full extent of any groundwater contamination.
The North Wangaratta Recreation Reserve was closed to the community last year after lead was detected in soil samples at the site’s eastern boundary above the health limits for recreational levels.
“The priority of all agencies involved is, and has been, to minimise any risks to human health and the local environment and to re-open the reserve as quickly as possible,” Ms Knights said.