Status
Active
Incident Date
1 July 2018
Locations Affected
North West

Key Messages

View our previous August update video.

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 have located approximately 30 sites of interest on the property where we suspect industrial waste may be buried underground. EPA has appointed Enviropacific (EPS) as the principal contractor to conduct the cleanup and remediation works in December 2020. EPA started ground works in February 2021.

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 that the site is secure
  • survey using our drones
  • create a safe working environment for EPA staff and contractors.

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 approximately 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 of the 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. Site 5 is currently underway with the remaining sites to follow.

We estimate 3000–9200m3 of solid and liquid waste have been buried on the property. We think that more than half of this amount is liquid waste. It is likely to contain solvents, hydrocarbons and other liquid waste.

Site remediation 

Clean up works at the Lemon Springs alleged illegal waste site are continuing to make steady progress. A total of five excavation sites have now been cleared of hazardous waste.

More than 700 tonnes of waste has been removed from the site to EPA licensed facilities for treatment and disposal.

A second hardstand pad for the treatment of contaminated soil has been constructed on site. A hardstand pad is a solid surface area built to support the weight of vehicles. Soil remediation works are also commencing during October. This will allow onsite contaminated soil to be treated for appropriate disposal or reuse.

Nine groundwater wells were sampled on site in August, with results showing no signs of contamination. EPA will continue to monitor and update the community on these results throughout the clean up and remediation works.

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 these are now matters before the courts, EPA will be making no further comment.

Emergency management and site safety

We have been working with the Grampians Regional Emergency Management Team to keep incident response and consequence management plans up-to-date. 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. With CFA we have used 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 cost of cleaning up 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 you up to date 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 15 October 2021