Background

EPA is investigating an illegal waste dump at a large rural property. The site is about 15 km south of Kaniva on the Kaniva-Edenhope Road.

The property is near Lemon Springs in the municipality of West Wimmera Shire Council.

We have been investigating this site since July 2018, when it was referred to us by Victoria Police.

We have located up to 30 sites of interest on the property where we suspect industrial waste may be buried underground. 

The safety of the community continues to be our priority.

Getting ready for the next stage of remediation 

Mobilisation onsite has now been completed, with site huts, triage structure and access roads established. EnviroPacific Services Ltd are continuing to conduct detailed site investigations, with the first excavation and removal of waste due to occur in late April. This will include sampling, classifying and transporting to an appropriately licensed facility for disposal. 

In late March EPA announced it had charged Graham Leslie White, owner of the site, with 118 offences under the Environment Protection Act 1970. The charges allege that the individual permitted the transport and burial of various types of industrial waste at his rural premises at Lemon Springs. The charges further allege that this unlawful dumping created an environmental hazard and polluted both land and water on the site, amongst other matters. As these are now matters that are before the courts EPA will be making no further comment.

A community meeting was held in Kaniva on 24 March with representatives from clean up contractor EnviroPacific Services, West Wimmera Shire Council, WorkSafe and CFA. The meeting has been recorded and is available for viewing below. 

Planning is currently underway to install additional groundwater monitoring wells in various locations on the site. EPA will continue to update the community on results throughout the cleanup and remediation works.
 
CFA together with Forest Fire Management Victoria will be conducting a planned burn along the Kaniva-Edenhope Rd adjacent to the site in the coming weeks. EPA will be present during the planned burn to advise around safety if access to the site is required. Any queries in relation to the planned burn should be directed to CFA.

Staying informed

We'll keep you up-to-date through our website, email, and your local newspaper.

You can subscribe for newsletter updates by emailing your contact details to northwest.mailbox@epa.vic.gov.au.

Kaniva community meeting

The Kaniva community meeting was held on 24 March. EPA was joined by representatives from cleanup contractor EnviroPacific Services, West Wimmera Shire Council, WorkSafe and CFA (Country Fire Authority) to answer community questions.

Video transcript
EPA community meeting – Lemon Springs clean up 24/3/2021
Meeting transcript


Okay thank you all for coming.
I know we probably don't necessarily need the microphone
but with the live streaming we're going to use it anyway so it's nice and clear through there for anyone that's listening so 
Welcome all this is the agenda for the meeting tonight so first of all we're going to start with a bit of an update of what's occurred on the site over the past 12 months
and what the next steps are for EPA and the principal contractor Enviropacific.
I’ll then hand over to Luke the project manager from Enviropacific who will give a rundown of who they are and what they plan to do out on the site 
We'll then open it up to questions from you guys and also questions from anyone who is listening on the on the live stream as well.
We have a person who will be monitoring those questions on the live stream.
We may not be able to get to all of them but they will try and ask as many of those as possible as well 
and then yeah we'll close out the meeting so we've got plenty of time for it we've got an hour and a half I’m sure it won't go for that long.
I think the most important part of these of these meetings are generally the questions. Question time so once we get to there are happy to take as long as we need to get through people's questions
Okay an overview of the site I’m sure most of you are aware of this but it's a rural property.
15 kilometres south of south of Kaniva quite dense bushland out there
We've found a number of areas we suspect there has been illegal activity burying of waste.
Approximately 30 have been identified currently.
The investigation has been very tricky and those that know the area and know this know this type of bush understand how difficult it is it's very dense bush.
So we've used a number of different methods to try and identify all the sites or suspected sites to ensure that you know anything that has been taken out there will be removed.
Over the past 12 months we've worked very closely with other agencies and organisations and we really appreciate their support through that time as well.
It is an interagency operation out there and these are the other agencies that have been involved with us over the past 12 months.
From that we do form an interagency operations team this team has been put together in line with other high-risk sites across the state
These are the key agencies involved at this site
This group is a governance group and a decision-making group as well so we take any key issues or key updates to this group and we're able to get those communications out to their forums to their organisations but also make some really key decisions in within this team as well.
So I spoke about the difficulties at this site and trying to identify all the areas and there and the different methods that we've had to put in place to identify all the all the different areas
It is very large and those that have been out to this site understand how large and remote it is
We've identified a number of areas now a number of areas that we know there's waste in and also a number of areas that we suspect there's waste in
and that's what this map is this isn't a finished product so as we're working through the project over the next 12 months 18 months we do suspect to find more
and we do also suspect that some of these locations may not have anything in them but we're going to check them anyway.
In February this year last year sorry we did remove 600 kilos of highly hazardous waste from the site.
This was part of the investigation works that took place in in 2019
Where we actually uncovered three areas on the site to understand better what was there.
So that we could move into this next phase of phase of works and start to plan this next phase of works.
As you can see we did we did uncover some highly hazardous waste there so in February we were able to remove that waste as well as 15 000 litres of liquid waste that was uncovered at that time
In April we engaged West Wimmera shire council were able to work with them through this period to upgrade the roads on the site and the works that we've been doing you know these works have expediated the process expediated where we're at now 
with the primary contractor being able to get on site and get straight into the work.
Very sandy location out there and without these without these roads and without the work that the council did with us you know we would find it really difficult for any movement across the site.
Flora and fauna assessment
So obviously a really key part to this site is making sure that that we're having as little impact over this project as possible.
Leaving as little footprint as possible so we wanted to do a native vegetation and flora and fauna assessment with an external party.
This work was undertaken in conjunction with DELWP as well and through that process there's been a number of recommendations that has came out in relation to protecting really key parts of the flora and fauna out there and those recommendations have now been adopted within project plans with Enviropacific and they'll and they'll be followed right throughout the project so that we leave as little a footprint on this site as possible right throughout the clean up.
Hard stand construction in September
So another great piece of work we're able to do late last year was work with local contractors McClure and engaged them to construct this hard stand you'll see later on in this presentation or you might have seen in the drone footage already it's already been put to good use.
This again has saved us you know a couple of months up front of setting up this area with Enviropacific.
It's given them the chance to get out there and get straight into the work.
We really appreciate being able to work with work with these local companies to get this work done

Groundwater monitoring so this has been continuing ever since we did find this site we've been doing quarterly monitoring at the site
We installed three wells two on site and one as a background well
These are these are monitored quarterly as well as some other off-site wells we have access to.
what's been fantastic is that there has been no signs of contamination throughout any of this sampling and throughout the project we do know that there's going to be more wells on site and this network is certainly going to expand and we're going to get a greater understanding of what's going on site as well
Site security and safety so obviously a really key one for us is making sure that community and any other people that are interested in the site do stay away and their safety is at the front of our mind.
So we've made sure that is in place the site secured it's always been fenced and signed. We've got motion detecting cameras on site and have had for a long period of time and they've just been upgraded and we're constantly doing drone flights and officer inspections out there as well just to ensure that all of those measures are still in place.
The legal investigation so EPA has continued to put this very detailed case together in relation to the legal investigation
Ss the site is it's been very complex and there's an absolute mountain of evidence involved here.
We are very happy to be able to announce that the charges are expected to be laid this Friday on the 26th of March against the property owner Mr Graham White there will be evidence that we do continue to gather throughout this project with Enviropacific and other contractors involved.
That leads us to the procurement of our principal contractor.
So anyone that has been through one of a procurement process understands it is a very detailed process and rightly so.
You want to make sure that you are getting the best possible supplier and we went through a very stringent procurement process and Enviropacific did come out on top of that.
Their experience and expertise in this sort of work really set them apart and we've been out on site with them now for four weeks but been working with them for a longer period of time than that and you know we've been very impressed with their work and we're very happy to be out on site with them.
So site mobilisation as I said started about four weeks ago EPS commenced this is included in the mobilisation and establishment of the site and you can see the hard stand there being put to use
Triage structure is starting to be erected there and site offices upgrading facilities those new security cameras right across the site that I’ve already spoken about is all in place so all is moving along really well and excavation and waste removal will be starting very soon in April.
It's probably about time for me to hand over to someone who can give some more detail on that and introduce Luke the project manager from Enviropacific.
Thanks Luke.
Thanks for the kind introduction Julian.
We're pretty excited to be working with EPA on this project
A bit about who we are and what we do.
So we're a specialist infrastructure services provider specialising in the environmental remediation and groundwater contamination field.
We basically provide services associated with cleaning up contaminated and hazardous sites
We're an environmentally focused contractor and we deliver about 500 projects nationally each year.
Some detail around the services we provide so our specialist for this particular project is around the site remediation so we provide specialist services in our brownfield sites and other contaminated site remediation
We're industry leaders in soil remediation PFAS remediation specialised demolition and we're also asbestos contractors so we're a class A specialist removalist
We also have a water treatment team they're dealing with contaminated groundwater and surface water with in-house design and construction capabilities across the country.
We have a hazardous waste facility in Altona where we're able to treat contaminated soil through a thermal process
It's one of three facilities in Victoria
Probably the highest capacity facility in Victoria and we service the whole country with that particular facility.
So for this particular project with we're working with Cleanaway as our waste management and treatment and disposal contractor. Coffey Environments for our environmental consultancy services and then McClure's as our civil contractor.
So I guess to talk through the waste removal process from the excavation phase through to disposal.
The process involves obviously excavating the waste methodically taking care and doing so to make sure we don't damage any of the containers as they're being removed
From the excavation phase the containers are then taken to our triage facility where Cleanaway will assess the containers classify them in accordance with the dangerous goods requirements.
Give them an ID package or repackage them further for transport and then store them on site prior to transport with an aim to remove all waste within five days of being processed.
From there it gets transported to one of Cleanaway’s licensed facilities in either Victoria or South Australia.
So our storage facility is a 25 by 60 meter triage structure so basically a large marquee without sides on it.
All the waste in there gets divided into different classes and is stored in appropriate bunding once it's been processed prior to transport
It's an all-weather facility so we can operate it in all weather conditions safely.
So the waste transport so Cleanaway we'll be looking after the waste transport of the dangerous goods.
All of the vehicles are dangerous goods licensed with appropriate manifests and waste transport paperwork and the trap trucks will all travel along designated dangerous goods routes with approximately one disposal truck movement per day from the site to either the Victorian or the Melbourne facilities or the Adelaide facility

So Coffey Environments will be undertaking the sampling throughout the work so each of the excavations will be validated through soil sampling and also doing some more groundwater assessment around the sites based on what we see when we're doing the excavation works.
EPA have engaged in an independent accredited auditor to sign off on the site throughout the works and ensure that everything has been complied with.
That's it for us.
Thank you very much Luke.
Look that concludes the presentation part as I said usually this is the most important part of these community meetings anyway.
In terms of the of the questions coming from anyone either in the room or actually on the live stream we've got a number of people in the room that are willing to take questions if they are directed their way.
Obviously myself and Luke, Steve Pitcher was might not be here from CFA as yet but we'll be here shortly.
WorkSafe we've got Nikos who's happy to take any questions if they go that way and Paul Brumby CEO of the council as well happy to take questions
So there is a microphone that Liv will be roaming around with if anyone has any questions open it up to you guys.
Yeah thank you very much the word hazardous goods it's got a big window from you know low to the serious end at the other end.
What hazardous goods have you found and how toxic are they?
I could answer that but I’ll hand it over to Luke to answer that because he's probably got the better technical knowledge.
So there's been some material which is quite volatile
So there's a lot of flammable materials and things on site
There's been some  chemicals used in fumigation which aren't exactly pleasant and I think they're the ones that have already been removed from site.
There was a really good understanding of how much of that material was going to be on site and that's according to the records all been removed from site
There's dry packed waste chlorine pellets and things from pool cleaning and things like that lab waste so in small packs so it's a it's a wide range of waste.
I think we're thinking about 60 percent of the waste is going to be of the flammable nature

[inaudible]

We're not expecting to find PCBs in this waste.
But in saying that there is a it's too soon to say what's there and what isn't based on what the interesting.
Yeah we will be testing for a while basically anything we could potentially find we will test for it's a really broad screen.
Coffey and the auditor will also assist with that to make sure we capture everything that could be there.
Sorry one more question.
The layered that these goods have been stored in, how high above the clay layer are they or are they at the clay layer? 
From what we've seen so far they're sitting on the first clay layer.
Okay thank you.
I think that's when it got hard to excavate that's when they've stopped.
Thank you. Any other questions?
Yep
So this is from Ross and he's joined on behalf of Victorian Mallee Fowl Recovery Group and he'd like some assurances that remediation works will minimise clearing and damage to undisturbed bushland especially at the eastern end of the site.
I guess his major question is: What actions will be taken to minimise impact of flora, fauna and the undisturbed areas?
Yep and yeah really good question. I did have a slide that related to that but to go into more detail the eastern side of the block obviously abuts the little desert the positive thing about the site is only the western half of the block has been impacted.
So the eastern half actually doesn't need any access from our contractors or any clean up activity in that area.
In terms of the area we do have to clean up and under the native under the floor and fauna assessment there will be a number of recommendations that are put in place each time we move to a new area.
And those recommendations they're around sticking to already developed tracks.
They're around making sure we really minimise any clearing of understory.
They are about not touching any canopy trees or larger trees as well and it's and each site we move to we're going to clearly map out and identify the area that we do need to do need to disturb and do need to uncover that has been disturbed previously and other areas won't be disturbed.
Any other questions?
What is the approximate time do you think this is all going to happen in and we're talking two or three years or what?
Yeah and look we again we do have to wait and see what we find and the extent of it because the nature of our site with it buried it does make it very difficult but we do have some estimations now working with Enviropacific and we are looking around that 12-month to 18-month mark.
We are hoping that it can be completed within that time but we do understand that we may run into some issues as well.
At the end of all this the rehabilitation of that front area especially the hard stand areas is that going to go back to bush?
Yeah look in terms of the rehabilitation of the actual areas the regeneration on this site actually is really good.
We've seen areas regenerate you know within six months of us being on site those investigation works in 2019 are a really good example of that.
We've seen that regeneration come back naturally.
In terms of the hard stand area that was a planned out area after our native after our flora and fauna assessment and that was that was the area it was identified as it didn't have any shrubs just had some low level grass. There was some wallaby grass that was identified in another section of the paddock that has been fenced off that we're not going to disturb so we identified that area where the hard stand is as the best area to leave as little a footprint as possible.
So you're going to leave the hard stand area
The aim at the moment is to leave the hard stand area but it's not set in stone or anything like that but EPA will recover costs for this site and part of recovering cost will be trying to sell the property as a clean property at the end and that hard stand may provide value to whoever buys that property.
Thank you. I just noticed at the start of one of the videos there was a township and then Lemon Springs site. I just believe that the name of a town should be left out of it. You know we don't want people thinking there's a township in the West Wimmera shire that's got a chemical dump and if that if it could be referred to as the Lemon Springs dump.
It's just a small request but I think it's something that should be considered.
Yeah certainly and we certainly call it the lemon springs clean up and remediation project and what that slide you're referring to talks to is how far that distance actually is from that township but certainly take your point on board and we'll continue to refer to it as Lemon Springs thank you
Anyone else? None online Reece?
Yep?

[inaudible]

Yeah that's right and not even just from the beginning we've also got historical data as well from Grampians Wimmera Water and it's in line with all that historical data as well.

[inaudible]

Look we have found some that have been breached it has been minimal and as I said we've only we've only been able to uncover three of the locations in the investigation phase.
There's been estimations that will be under 10 percent that have been compromised but it's going to be different from site to site and as I said there's possibly 30 sites so it'll be different from site to site.
From those breech containers though we do believe they do sit on top of the first clay layer or aquitard and we do hope that there is a level of protection there but as Luke’s detailed these guys are experts in soil remediation, groundwater remediation things like that as well and whatever needs to be done out on this site will be done
Yes?

[inaudible]

It makes sense to me that he's got the power and the resources to do that he's also been dumping in other parts of Victoria as well.
And not necessarily as far away from his original business.
So have you connected the dots together to realise that there are other sites around Victoria which are connected to him?
Look our legal team and investigations team have been working on this for some time and it has been a very thorough investigation.
I can't go into the details on it as you're probably aware I can detail our side and that charges are expected to be laid this week but I can't go into further details but I can just assure you that our team has been working very hard on this.
I think Rob’s got a question up back.

[inaudible]

So I’d say in relation to that Rob again it's really critical evidence as part of the investigation and that's and that's why we do know.
We are able to track waste and that we EPA are in the business of tracking waste and we do expect that as we move through this project and take more waste out of the ground more evidence will be able to be tracked and identified and those volumes will be able to be confirmed for other sorts of waste as well.
Yes?
So are you possible to track from this bloke who gave him the material is it are you able to go up the chain to find out who's been dumping illegally because the people who passed this material onto him obviously knew what was going to happen
Yeah and again forms part of our investigation and our team have been working really hard on putting those pieces of puzzle together but there are really stringent tracking systems in place currently through EPA and we will be able to use that data yes.

[inaudible]

His company is not, no.
No his company's not not. His company is currently in liquidation I believe.

[inaudible]

I probably can't go into too much detail around at all I apologise.
What are your hours operations going to be?
Are you going to be working weekends and things like that?
I’ll hand over to Luke for that one 
Yeah I guess our standard operating hours are seven or five Monday to Friday.
We do work Saturdays but probably this site we won't based on where some of the guys are coming from and our program we haven't included working Saturdays on the site but yeah we'll be mobilising seven to five every day.
So you expect a lot of travellers for workers to travel in then rather than stay here?
Quite a few of our guys will probably do two weeks on a week off sort of thing so there'll be guys coming and going but yeah there'll be a lot of people staying in town, both Kaniva and Nhill those sort of places.
Some of us have moved up here longer term so we're looking forward to working with the local community and giving a bit back which would be good
When we're fully operational there'll probably be about 25 to 30 people on sight so we've got yeah civil guys doing the excavation work on out in the field the Cleanaway guys doing the triage operations and then the project team sort of running the show in the office so it's a pretty decent team of people

[inaudible]

We've got a full office set up so I’m full time on site. My boss is obviously based out of Melbourne but he'll definitely show his head out a few times but yeah it's a good team of people with some really great people involved in the project from our end which is good.
How do you dispose of those chemicals? Incinerators or what?
It depends on the chemical so things that are flammable they'll generally be taken to a licensed facility and then from there they get used for resource energy recovery so they burn them in cement kilns and things like that so they actually get an energy product out of the flammables.
Some of the other things are neutralised before being disposed of through trade waste and things like that so they're no longer an issue.
Some of the nastier stuff is stabilised with cement and then put into landfill stabilising it removing the risk of it leaching into various landfills and things like that.
So there's a few options for disposal depending on the risk associated with it
Have you come across a project as intense as this before?
Our team's working on a project very similar to this at the moment it's a different sort of scale with it's above ground chemicals. But from a scale point of view with this level of dumping no but we're definitely equipped to deal with it.
On a scale of one to ten what would you rate this like the worst disaster in Victoria in 100 years or what?
Oh I’d say no it's not the worst disaster because we can manage it it's it can be cleaned up.
The worst disaster couldn't be cleaned up so this one we can get the waste out of the ground any other questions

[inaudible]

You’ll hate me I’m an umpire so

[inaudible]

There's a couple so I think one of them has been trained once and I’ve got to get him training again here I think he trained you sitting at the front. But yeah, there'll be a few guys that might be interested in having a kick so

[inaudible]

Yeah look we've been doing these as needs and we have been giving updates on a monthly basis as well through email chains and media releases and anyone can certainly join that list I believe it's the next slide can register to join that list so get those updates.
In terms of a face to face it's an as needs basis to be totally honest if we find that there is a is a need for it and we're in regular contact with Paul and council then we'll certainly call another community meeting and update you guys on what's going on out there.
I would say that will be after some waste is removed and we can give you some detail on what's going on the site.
Okay well if that's it yeah thank you all for coming really appreciate it appreciate the questions we hope we've been able to provide you with all the answers you wanted tonight.
As I said if you if you've got any follow-up questions or you do want to join the mailing list feel free to. We're going to be around for some time you'll see us in the community we're always happy to have a chat yeah thanks for coming and yeah we'll see you all later.
Cheers.

Reviewed 26 April 2021