Current issues

CFA regional training centres


Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is coordinating an investigation into potential environmental contamination resulting from firefighting chemicals used in the past by CFA at its regional training centres across Victoria.

EPA established a working group from across government to oversee testing of the waterways, drains and groundwater that could be affected by contamination, particularly focusing beyond the boundary of training facilities.

EPA advises that further offsite testing and investigation has been undertaken, confirming that reticulated (mains) drinking water supplies in surrounding communities are safe to drink and the CFA training centres are safe to operate. The risk to people’s health and the environment from any contamination is very low and work is continuing to develop and maintain best-practice management controls at each site.

CFA regional training centres

Map of CFA regional training centres in Victoria

Latest update for each site: Penshurst | Bangholme | Wangaratta | Huntly | Fulham | Longerenong

All local water authorities and key stakeholders, including neighbours and local reference groups established for each site, have been briefed on the environmental assessments completed to date, and are satisfied with the management controls in place.

EPA will also ensure the community is kept well informed about the testing regime and results, and people are welcome to call the EPA hotline on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or visit our website for further information. The website will be updated regularly as testing progresses.

Background to the investigation

Perflurooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a type of perfluorinated chemical (PFC), is the key contaminant being investigated. PFOS was a common ingredient of firefighting foams in the past but has not been used since 2007.

The environmental assessments are occurring at six of CFA’s regional training centres across Victoria. These are at:

  • Penshurst
  • Wangaratta
  • Longerenong (Horsham)
  • Huntly (Bendigo)
  • Fulham (Sale)
  • Bangholme (Dandenong/Carrum).

Site visits and environmental assessments have been undertaken by EPA and CFA at all locations. EPA has issued CFA with clean up notices for all six sites.

As is standard practice, EPA has issued these clean up notices to provide transparency and formalise CFA’s requirements, timelines and reporting expectations. Each site has developed a water management plan and undertaken initial offsite risk assessments to identify and test any nearby groundwater bores. Current testing and assessment has not identified any immediate risks or significant contamination.

Updates for the RTC sites

To get the latest news on any of the sites, subscribe to our email updates.

Penshurst

  • The town drinking water supply is from a deep groundwater aquifer. Wannon Water has tested the drinking water and confirmed that no PFCs are present and the water is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts, EPA authorised officers, contaminated site specialists and an independent, EPA-appointed environmental auditor have conducted a number of site inspections and assessments of the Penshurst RTC.
  • To date, testing of groundwater near the site has shown five bores that are contaminated with PFOS. CFA and EPA are working with landowners to ensure any potential risks are known and managed.
  • A short-term environmental audit has been completed for the site. This audit has further delineated offsite surface water and groundwater contamination, and confirmed no current significant health risks.
  • CFA is already implementing recommendations of the report for ongoing management controls, which include providing alternative water supplies to properties with impacted groundwater bores.
  • CFA and the auditor have provided full briefings to neighbours and the local reference group, which includes representatives from the community and key agencies such as local water corporations and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • A cleanup plan developed by CFA is being reviewed by EPA. The plan formalises existing actions as well as implementation of audit recommendations. This will be a dynamic plan to ensure it continually includes the latest information and recommendations from further testing and the long-term environmental audit.
  • A longer-term audit scope is in the process of being approved. The environmental audit includes further investigations to fully delineate the extent of contamination and will identify any future long-term management controls or cleanup measures that may be needed. The long-term environmental audit report currently in progress is due by 30 June 2017.
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Penshurst (PDF 94KB).

Bangholme

  • The drinking water supply in the area has not been affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Bangholme RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • We do not expect nearby facilities, such as the Eastern Treatment Plant, to be affected by contamination from the Bangholme site. Recycled water supplies from the Eastern Treatment Plant are safe to use.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • A more extensive environmental management plan is due by 31 March 2016.
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Bangholme (PDF 91KB).

Wangaratta

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • Testing of groundwater near the site has been conducted. A very low level of PFOS contamination has been detected in an observation bore near the site, but not near homes. This bore is not currently in use. Current testing has not identified any further offsite groundwater contamination.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Wangaratta RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way. Surface water in Three Mile Creek was tested and no contaminants were detected.
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Wangaratta South (PDF 91KB).

Huntly

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Huntly RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • A more extensive environmental management plan is due by 31 March 2016.
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Huntly (PDF 89KB).

Fulham (West Sale)

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Fulham (West Sale) RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • A more extensive environmental management plan is due by 31 March 2016.
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Fulham (West Sale) (PDF 95KB)

Longerenong

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Longerenong RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • A more extensive environmental management plan is due by 31 March 2016.
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Longerenong (PDF 89KB).

Clean up notices for Penshurst, Wangaratta, Longerenong, Huntly, Fulham and Bangholme

A clean up notice is a written statutory direction that requires, by law, that a notice recipient undertake works or activities as detailed in the notice. Remedial notices are served to prevent or remedy a range of non-compliances or likely non-compliances. Remedial notices are not punitive measures like EPA sanctioning tools (such as a licence suspension or prosecution).

Each clean up notices is based on EPA inspection of the site and a targeted environmental site assessment containing test results prepared by an environmental consultancy. It requires practical actions and timelines for further assessment, management, and reporting of any contamination.

If you have any questions about the notice, please contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC). Huntly latest update Longerenong latest update Penshurst latest update Fiskville latest update Bangholme latest update Fulham latest update Wangaratta latest update Huntly latest update Longerenong latest update CFA Fiskville investigation Penshurst latest update Bangholme latest update Fulham latest update Wangaratta latest update

Q and A on CFA regional training centre testing + Expand all Collapse all

  • Why is EPA overseeing testing at the CFA regional training centres? What is the concern?

    EPA is investigating potential contamination resulting from firefighting chemicals used in the past by CFA at its six regional training centres (RTCs) across Victoria.

    There are concerns that the contamination may have extended beyond the boundary of the training centres and affected nearby waterways, drains and groundwater.

    This work was launched after CFA informed EPA that testing it had been undertaking at the regional centres showed elevated levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in groundwater at the Penshurst site. To ensure transparency and independent oversight, EPA has issued a statutory clean up notice (CUN) on each site. A CUN is issued under section 61A of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

  • What is being done to address the concerns?

    EPA – in conjunction with CFA, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) and relevant water corporations – is working to better understand the potential risks posed to human health, livestock and the environment at each of CFA’s six training centres.

  • Is drinking water safe in the areas around these sites?

    Yes. Relevant water corporations have assessed reticulated drinking water supplies in and around the CFA’s six sites and all drinking water has been confirmed safe to drink.

    People are reminded that it is never safe to drink water sourced from stock or domestic groundwater bores.

  • What are the contaminants?

    They are perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are manmade chemicals that have been used in a range of industrial and consumer products since the 1950s.

    Most people come into contact with PFCs through eating food and drinking water containing PFCs; and through the use of products like cosmetics, shaving cream, water-repellent sprays and nonstick cookware.

    Until recently, two types of PFCs – PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) – were commonly added to firefighting foams to improve the foam’s ability to smother fires. They were also used to suppress mists in various industrial processes.

    Due to their wide use, and persistence in the environment, PFCs can be found in soils, surface water and groundwater in most urban areas, at low-level concentrations. However, where larger quantities of PFCs have been released into the environment, concentrations may be elevated and can pose a risk to human and environmental health.

  • How do we decide if levels of PFCs are safe?

    There are currently no Australian criteria for PFOS and PFOA, which are types of perfluorinated chemicals. EPA Victoria is a member of a working group that is in the process of establishing Australian criteria for these chemicals.

    Currently, when EPA does an environmental assessment for these chemicals, we refer to international standards such as the US criteria listed below.

    Drinking water:

    • PFOS – 0.2 µg/L
    • PFOA – 0.4 µg/L

    Soil (residential land use):

    • PFOS – 6 mg/kg
    • PFOA – 16 mg/kg

    Concentrations of PFOS and PFOA that are higher than these levels are not necessarily unsafe, but would warrant further investigation.

    EPA is aware of current international cases of PFC contamination, and research into developing and reviewing criteria used for environmental assessment. We are continuing to work with the Victorian Government and with our interstate and international colleagues to ensure appropriate criteria are being applied as knowledge emerges on these chemicals.

    The Victorian Government has so far taken a precautionary approach to this contamination issue and in managing the environmental assessment of the CFA regional training centres. Assessments have concluded that reticulated drinking water supplies to surrounding communities are safe to drink; and the risk to people’s health and the environment from the contamination detected is very low.
  • Where are CFA’s training centres located?

    The centres are located at Penshurst, Wangaratta, Longerenong (Horsham), Huntly (Bendigo), Fulham (Sale) and Bangholme (Dandenong/Carrum).

  • What sort of regulatory action is EPA taking?

    EPA, as the environmental regulator, has issued CFA statutory notices requiring further investigation and appropriate remediation and management of each of its regional training centres.

    The clean up notices also require CFA to develop plans to carry out any required cleanup of contamination.

  • Has any contamination been detected outside the centres?

    Yes. At Penshurst, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination levels above drinking water criteria have been detected in four stock and domestic bores in the Penshurst area. CFA and EPA staff have visited these households and discussed alternative water supplies and health checks with the residents.

    Also, PFOS contamination at levels above drinking water criteria have been detected in an observation bore 500 m north of the Wangaratta training centre. This bore is not currently in use and results will inform further works by CFA.

  • What about other users of PFCs?

    EPA is also working with other agencies and jurisdictions, including the Department of Defence and airports, to understand other potential risks of contamination from these firefighting foams.

    The Victorian Government is aware that the Department of Defence actively assesses, tracks and manages contamination at its sites. The Department of Defence’s website offers public information (PDF 203KB) about its East Sale RAAF base, which states that potential risks from known contamination have been identified.

    The website also states how the department is actively managing these risks to ensure impact to human health and the environment is minimised. Based on the department’s work program, there is no indication that contamination extends beyond the defence site.

Page last updated on 11 Mar 2016