Current issues

Illegal waste dump site south of Kaniva


What happened

EPA has investigated an illegal waste dump at a large rural property. It is located approximately 15 kilometres south of Kaniva near Lemon Springs on a 1,400 acre property on the Kaniva-Edenhope Rd.

What EPA is doing

As part of an EPA investigation 20 sites have been located on the property with what we suspect are industrial waste containers buried underground. We used a new form of drone technology with Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), a first for an Australian regulator, in the investigation.

EPA is working with Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water Corporation (GWMWater) to monitor groundwater. With the data collected, EPA has not found any groundwater impacts.

EPA has expanded the program to monitor groundwater conditions on the property. GWMWater will continue to monitor the urban supply. EPA has appointed a contractor to construct new bores on-site, undertaking more groundwater testing. Drilling of the new bores has commenced. Please see this fact sheet prepared by GWMWater for more information on Kaniva's groundwater supply.

We also carried out soil sampling and assessed surface level vapour risks on areas suspected of buried waste to determine if any harmful gasses are escaping from underground. The results have come back negative to both public health and environmental concerns.

We are also conducting more drone with GPR flights over the property to do further search and mapping work.

EPA has also hired contractors to undertake further assessments to identify any more measures required, beyond the steps we are already taking, to ensure the safety of the community and the environment. The assessment is underway and expected to be completed around the end of the year.

In the coming weeks, EPA staff will also conduct preliminary on-site excavation works at some of the suspected sites of illegally dumped waste to start the process of identifying the type and extent of buried waste.

EPA has taken a further step in the ongoing legal process. It has issued the owner of the property, Mr Graham White, a clean up notice (CUN). This states the site has to be secure and have signage installed. It also orders the carrying out of an Environmental Site Assessment, supervised by EPA. This will determine the type and extent of the contamination present. The legal notice stops Mr White from excavating any of the buried waste at the site.

EPA’s role

EPA holds the duty holder to account. Under the Environment Protection Act 1970, the person who dumped the waste must clean up the site.

A cleanup cost or timeframe is not yet available. To determine a cost, we need to know more about the waste. This includes what is in buried drums and containers, and exactly how much is there. We expect clean up to take some time. It will be a complex process.

This has been an extensive investigation with more work to come.

The challenges included:

  • the size and remoteness of the premises
  • the natural geology
  • the potential areas where waste may be buried underground
  • the waste is buried making analysis and quantification difficult.

Risks to human health and the environment

EPA's priority throughout its investigation of this site is the safety of the community and our staff.

EPA is working with GWMWater to monitor groundwater. With the data collected, EPA has not found any groundwater impacts.

EPA has expanded program to monitor groundwater conditions on the property. GWMWater will continue to monitor the urban supply. EPA has appointed a contractor to construct new bores on-site and to undertake further rounds of groundwater testing.

We also carried out soil sampling and assessed surface level vapour risks on areas suspected of buried waste. The latter means identifying if any harmful gasses are escaping from underground. The results have come back negative to both public health and environmental concerns.

What you can expect over the next three months

  • results from further rounds of groundwater monitoring completed at on-site and off-site bores monitoring
  • excavation works at some of the suspected illegally dumped waste to continue
  • additional drone flights over the property will be conducted 
  • there will be continued engagement with both local community groups and government organisations.

EPA presence in the Kaniva community will be noticeable and there will be continued sharing of information. In late November 2019, we will hold a further community meeting to share with you the outcomes of this stage of our response plan. Relevant government organisations will be in attendance.

FAQs about the illegal waste dump site south of Kaniva + Expand all Collapse all

  • Frequently Asked Questions about the illegal waste dump site south of Kaniva

    1. When did the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) first attend the site of the illegal waste dump south of Kaniva?

    EPA has been investigating this site since July 2018, after it was referred by the police.

    2. What have you found at the site?

    The site is a large rural property, 1400 acre in size. It is located approximately 15 kilometres south of Kaniva near Lemon Springs, on the Kaniva-Edenhope Road, within the municipality of West Wimmera Shire Council.

    Using its precautionary powers, EPA has conducted multiple inspections of the site, including a first ever use by an Australian regulator of GPR using drones. The inspections to date have located 20 underground dump sites.

    3. What type of waste have you found illegally dumped at the site?

    The EPA has located what it suspects are industrial waste containers buried underground at the site. The investigation is challenging because of:

    • the size of the premises
    • the natural geology
    • the potential areas where waste may be present.

    Detailed analysis of the type and quantities of the waste that has been dumped is not yet available, because of their location underground.

    4. What risk does the waste at the site pose to the community and the environment?

    The safety of the community has been EPA’s priority throughout its extensive investigation. It is located 15 kilometres south of the Kaniva township, near Lemon Springs. EPA has worked with GWMWater to monitor the groundwater, which shows no signs of contamination.

    In addition, EPA has assessed surface level vapour risks at the areas identified as possible sites of buried waste. The results indicated there is no vapour risk.

    5. Why is the investigation taking a long time?

    EPA has gone to great lengths to manage this site to protect public health. This is a complex situation. The site is remote and large. The discovery of underground dump sites required the use of new technology not used by an Australian regulator. Accessing the suspected buried containers is difficult because of:

    • the geology
    • access to the potential waste sites
    • the need to protect the safety of the EPA’s officers.

    6. What is the EPA doing right now?

    EPA has taken a further step in the ongoing legal process. It has issued the owner of the property, Mr White, a clean up notice (CUN). This is a legally enforceable notice.

    EPA is also continuing to monitor compliance with the Clean Up Notice it issued to the owner of the property, Mr Graham White.  Mr White has not met all conditions of the notice and any failure to comply with the requirements is managed in accordance with EPA’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

    EPA, with GWMWater, will continue to monitor the groundwater through an expanded program.

    Please see this fact sheet prepared by GWMWater for more information on Kaniva's groundwater supply.

    EPA will also undertake excavation works at some of the suspected sites of illegally dumped waste. Sub-soil testing will take place.

    7. Who pays to clean up the waste on the site?

    The Environment Protection Act 1970 allows EPA to require certain classes of people, for example, people who appear to have abandoned or dumped industrial waste, to pay for cleanup measures reasonably required by EPA. EPA also has some power to conduct a cleanup itself, in which case, it may be able to seek compensation from a person who caused the waste to be dumped.

    8. Is there a cleanup cost estimate?

    Not yet. A cleanup plan cannot be designed or costed until the full scale and nature of the suspected waste is confirmed.

Page last updated on 16 Oct 2019