In June 2012 the EPA inspected the Corporation’s Operations Centre located in Shepparton in response to a report from the community. Stockpiles of Industrial Waste were observed on the site, including soil mixed with asbestos cement pipe, concrete, bricks, asphalt and plastic.
The Industrial Waste identified at the Shepparton Operations Centre was generated by civil works carried out by the Corporation, including rectification of burst water mains within the Region.
In response the Corporation engaged independent contractors:
- to assess, screen, characterise and remove the Industrial Waste from the Shepparton Operations Centre; and
- to inspect and assess all 328 of the Corporation’s sites across the Region.
On 34 of the 328 sites, stockpiled soil containing Industrial Waste was identified in volumes varying from 10m3 to 4,000m3 per site. These sites are listed in paragraphs 14 to this Undertaking.
On some of the Corporation’s sites Industrial Waste accumulated over a long period (estimated 50 years), including prior to the Corporation’s constitution in 1994. The Corporation was created in 1994 by the merger of a number of former water boards. At the time the Corporation assumed control of assets including the sites listed in paragraphs 14 from the former water boards, and in some cases former municipal councils. It appears that on 34 sites the Corporation has taken control of a site where Industrial Waste was deposited prior to 1994 and continued its storage, which in some instances had been reused to construct infrastructure (e.g. an embankment). On 12 of the 34 sites, it appears that the Corporation’s operations since it was constituted in 1994, have involved the placement and storage of Industrial Waste.
The issues identified are indicative of the continuing legacy of the asbestos cement pipe used across the water industry up to the late 1980s. From 1994 to 2000 the Corporation relied on plant managers to deal with the Industrial Waste and soil generated by burst water mains and civil works.
In 2000 the Corporation developed a standard operating instruction for handling asbestos containing material complying with occupational health and safety requirements. The procedure relied on the EPA guidance at that time for the handling of soil and asbestos (less than 1% asbestos in soil by volume was not a prescribed industrial waste). This guidance changed with the introduction of the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009. The Corporation’s standard operating instruction was not updated at that time.
The Corporation failed to identify these requirements and continued to store Industrial Waste at 34 sites in contravention of the Act.
The Corporation accepts responsibility for all of the Industrial Waste on its sites listed in paragraphs 14 to this Undertaking and is committed to rehabilitating the sites in accordance with site specific strategies verified by an Auditor.
The Corporation is required to rehabilitate the sites listed in the schedule to this Undertaking (8 sites) in compliance with this Undertaking. These sites were identified by the EPA as sites for which a clean up notice would have been issued but for this Undertaking, and are generally accepted as the sites with the greatest volume of Industrial Waste.
The Corporation commits to voluntarily rehabilitate the remaining 26 sites in compliance with site specific strategies prepared by an independent contractor. This has already been completed for 16 sites with another 6 sites scheduled to commence prior to 30 June 2014.