Status
Active
Incident Date
1 July 2018
Locations Affected
North West

Key Messages

View our previous update videos.

Background

EPA is taking action to clean up an alleged 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 working at this site since July 2018, when it was referred to us by Victoria Police.

We located about 30 sites of interest on the property where we suspected industrial waste may be buried underground. EPA appointed Enviropacific (EPS) as the principal contractor to conduct the clean up and remediation works in December 2020. EPS started on ground works in February 2021 and is continuing to remove waste from the site.

The safety of the community continues to be our priority.

At the site, EPA is continuing to:

  • work with EPS to clean up and remediate the site
  • test for any groundwater contamination
  • monitor for any offsite impacts, and to date, nothing has been detected
  • investigate dangers onsite
  • investigate how the material arrived and then was disposed of onsite
  • make sure the site is secure
  • survey using our drones
  • create a safe working environment for EPA staff and contractors.

Current site remediation

EPA’s cleanup of Lemon Springs continues. We've removed waste from 26 of the 32 sites and backfilled 11 areas with clean soil. Acetylene cylinders are being excavated in large volumes, with over 30,000 removed to date. EPA are currently investigating disposal pathways for these cylinders.

We have commissioned an onsite wastewater treatment plant to allow contaminated water treatment and reuse. This will continue to operate throughout the the project.

Contaminated soil is treated on site, following all safety protocols and processes. There have been 13 soil stockpiles treated to date. We can now remediate the soil to a suitable level for reuse onsite. This avoids the need for disposal at landfill.

We expect to complete the clean-up project by mid-2023. EPA will continue to update the community on the progress of the site.

Have your say and complete a short survey on the project.

For a further update on the site, you can view our latest progress video.

How EPA investigated and what we found

Among the tools we have used during this investigation are drones with ground-penetrating radar (GPR). When we fly these over the site they can tell us if there is anything unusual buried. The GPR found about 30 sites on the property where we suspect containers holding industrial waste are buried. Further monitoring and detailed site investigations by EPA and EPS have determined precise locations and size of the burial sites, and have also found a number of other locations where small amounts of waste is buried. We have now completed investigations and believe we have discovered all chemical waste on the property.

In late 2019, we partially excavated three major areas where we suspected waste was buried. We took samples for analysis to find out what has been buried. Site excavations began in April 2021, with the first site completed in June 2021. A total of 26 excavation sites have now been cleared of hazardous waste, with remaining sites to follow.

Enforcement action

EPA issued a clean up notice to the owner of the site in 2019. As a number of the milestones were not met, we asked the owner of the property to show cause why EPA should not use our regulatory powers to take over the management of the property. The property owner failed to show cause.

On 3 December 2019 EPA exercised its powers under the Environment Protection Act 1970, and took over management of the site. This means EPA will secure, monitor and seek to remove all hazardous waste from the property.

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 there is a committal hearing at Melbourne Magistrates Court, EPA is not able to provide any further comment on these proceedings.

Emergency management and site safety

We have been working with the Grampians Regional Emergency Management Team to keep incident response and consequence management plans updated. Regional Emergency Management Teams are a group of local and state government agencies who may have a role during an emergency incident.

We are working with CFA on various fire response types. Using air modelling to predict how smoke from a fire at the property will behave. Air modelling is a computer-based tool that helps us simulate how smoke and other pollutants behave under different conditions. Based on this modelling, there is minimal risk from smoke to the town of Kaniva should a fire start at the property.

Our cost recovery action for the waste dump site

EPA will continue to pursue the occupier to pay for the clean up costs and will use all available powers to hold them to account.

Contractors

We’re managing all procurement relating to this project. We acknowledge that there is a lot of interest in assisting with the project. We will be making decisions in line with government procurement practices.

EPA will not be employing individuals directly. Contractor companies successful in the tendering process will be responsible for employing their own staff.

Staying informed

We'll keep updated through our website, emails and your local newspaper.

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

Reviewed 1 September 2022