Current issues

West Footscray / Tottenham fire recovery




On Thursday 30 August, there was a fire at a warehouse at 420 Somerville Rd, Tottenham. Emergency Management Victoria, Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Melbourne Water, Environmental Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and local government were all involved in the response.

EPA continues to support Maribyrnong City Council in its role as the lead agency of the recovery efforts following the West Footscray factory fire.

Acting as a support agency, EPA also continues to monitor air and water quality in the affected areas and provide advice around the potential human health impacts.

A clean-up and recovery plan for Stony Creek and surrounding areas is in development between a number of key agencies.

Water sampling in West Footscray

Community information

EPA is maintaining a strong community engagement presence in the Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay area. EPA staff will continue to be in Cruickshank Park over the next few weeks.

EPA’s Chief Environmental Scientist spoke at a community meeting on Thursday 6 September and answered questions from community members. A video of the meeting is available here.

Water quality monitoring

EPA is targeting water quality analysis on contaminants that have been found in Stony Creek. Results so far have found a range of chemicals in the water including:

  • detergents
  • industrial solvents, such as phenol and a group of volatile industrial solvent compounds called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene)
  • PFAS
  • fire combustion by-products (polyaromatic hydrocarbons).

Levels of chemicals found in Stony Creek are decreasing as clean-up starts and EPA will continue to monitor these during recovery and share results with the community.

Residents are still advised to avoid all contact with water and keep pets away from the creek. If you are feeling unwell, seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.

EPA is collecting evidence on health impacts experienced by residents. Please call EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).

Notices issued to factory site owners

EPA has also issued a number of notices on the owners of the West Footscray factory fire site.

The notices are an important part of the recovery phase of the incident and aim to secure the site and prevent any further contamination of Stony Creek.

The notices require the site owners to inspect the property daily to check on any materials stored there, install security fences, keep access ways clear, and ensure controls, including contingencies for rainfall, are in place so no run off can enter stormwater drains.

The owners will be required to regularly report their progress to the EPA.

If the notices are not complied with the owner could be fined more than $48,000 plus $8,000 for every day the works are overdue.

Recovery plan

EPA, working closely with Maribyrnong City Council and waterway managers have commenced development of a recovery plan for Stony Creek and surrounding areas.

The recovery of Stony Creek and surrounds will take some time, but the Council, supported by EPA will let you know when it’s no longer necessary to avoid contact with the water and how you can be involved in the recovery effort.

EPA and Melbourne Water have placed additional information signs in public access space to keep community informed and further signage will continue to be installed as needed. The signage starts at Paramount Road (where the footpath starts) and extends all the way downstream to Hyde Street placing extra importance on high use public areas:

  • Cruickshank Park
  • The Warmies Boat Ramp
  • Stony Creek Disc Golf Course
  • Stony Creek Reserve
  • Hyde Street
  • near the inlet of the power station.

Community advice signage onsite as part of the West Footscray recovery plan

Further information

Disclaimer: EPA monitoring data in support of the West Footscray/ Tottenham fire recovery is preliminary data. 

EPA has made every reasonable effort to provide current and accurate information, but it does not make any guarantees regarding the accuracy, currency or completeness of that information/data.  This data has not been subject to quality control procedures and is subject to change at any time and is provided for general guidance only and should not be relied on as a complete statement.

Additional advice and information + Expand all Collapse all

  • Health concerns from the fire

    EPA has been responding to community concerns from the fire.

    • Residents are still advised to avoid all contact with creek water and keep pets away from Stony Creek.
    • If you are feeling unwell, seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.

    Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

    Stony Creek has been impacted by fire water runoff. During the fire, strong odours were coming from water near the site of the fire and around Cruickshank Park. Odours can still be smelt in the area.

    VOCs are a large group of chemicals containing carbon and give off vapours into the air. This includes chemicals such as ethanol, acetone, xylene, benzene and toluene. VOCs can be produced when things containing carbon are burned and are commonly found in smoke. VOCs are also found in paints, glues and other products used in the home or workplace. VOCs have a low odour threshold and can be smelt even at low concentrations.

    Long term health effects are not expected from short term exposures to VOCs.

    VOC Air sampling along Stoney Creek

    Air samples have and will continue to be collected and analysed in residential and sensitive areas near Stony Creek. The chemical odour in this area is due to the vapours or VOCs coming from the chemicals in the creek from the water run-off from the fire site.

    Levels of VOCs in the air sampled were all well below health guideline levels.

    Asbestos

    Concerns were held about asbestos containing building materials at the site of the fire.

    During the fire itself, asbestos was not expected to pose a health risk to the surrounding community.  This is because during a fire the amount of asbestos fibres released into the air is relatively low.

    24-hour airborne asbestos sampling and testing was first carried out on 31 August 2018 at various locations near the fire site. Further samples have been taken over a 24-hour period on another three occasions.

    Results for monitoring of asbestos so far have all been below the limit of detection.

    Particulates

    While burning large amounts of smoke could be seen from the fire.

    EPA monitored the levels of fine particles (PM2.5) near the fire at Footscray, Altona and Brooklyn, as part of EPA’s standard air monitoring network. These particles have a very small diameter and can be breathed into the lower parts of the lungs where they can cause greater harm. PM2.5 is a good indicator of air quality during smoke events and can be used to assess potential health consequences. 

    The 24-hr average levels for fine particles during the fire did not reach unhealthy levels. 

  • Waterways

    EPA, local government and MFB officers worked hard to contain the flow of fire water used to battle the fire, but significant run off has made it into local waterways.

    Stony Creek has been impacted by fire water runoff. Strong odours are coming from water near the site of the fire and around Cruickshank Park, and possibly into the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers. EPA is monitoring water quality all the way to Port Phillip Bay.

    Over the incident, EPA has been conducting comprehensive water sampling in Stony Creek and inspecting areas of Port Phillip Bay from Brighton through to Williamstown. In the coming days and weeks, EPA is targeting water quality analysis on contaminants that have been found in Stony Creek.

    The locations of EPA’s water and sediment sampling is mapped below.

    Waterways map West Footscray fire recovery

    Results so far have found a range of chemicals in the water including detergents, industrial solvents such as phenol and a group of volatile industrial solvent compounds called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene), PFAS, and fire combustion by-products (polyaromatic hydrocarbons). Levels of chemicals found in Stony Creek are decreasing as clean-up starts and EPA will continue to monitor these during recovery.

    Further information about water quality is available here: West Footscray Fire – Water test results summary - 19 September 2018.

    Residents are still advised to avoid all contact with water and keep pets away from the creek.

    If you feel unwell, seek medical help and follow the same advice as you would for managing smoke.

  • Air quality

    The fire produced a large plume of smoke and there has been a strong odour associated with the smoke.

    Now the fire is out, no smoke is being detected from the fire site. Some odour has been detected along Stony Creek from residual chemicals from the fire. EPA deployed canisters to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at several locations along Stony Creek over several days to understand any risks posed by these odours. To date, all these results do not show any risk to the community.

    In response to local community requests, EPA has released a table of its AirWatch data showing pollutant levels from Thursday 30 August to Wednesday 6 September.

    Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Result Summary
    West Footscray Industrial Fire


    The smoke produced from the West Footscray/Tottenham Industrial Fire can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are organic chemicals that may cause harm to human health and the environment. To evaluate the impact of VOCs on local air quality, EPA conducted air monitoring of VOCs during and after the fire incident.

    Two air samples were collected over an 8-hour period at a location near the fire on the day (30/08/2018) of the fire. These samples were collected to determine the effects of smoke from the fire. The results for 8-hour sampling were compared against US EPA Acute Exposure Level Guidelines (AEGLs). AEGLs are used during emergencies as guidance in dealing with rare, usually accidental, releases of chemicals into the air. They are designed to protect the elderly and children, and other susceptible individuals. Only the results of 8-hour samples for VOCs above detection limits are presented in the table below

    Summary of 8-hour VOCs results for 31/08/2018 - 01/09/2018 (no exceedances).

    Compounds (µg/m³) Corrigan Ave,
    Brooklyn 
    EPA Brooklyn Air
    Monitoring Station 
    AEGLs 1- 8hr 
    Benzene  8.7  5.4  28, 754 
    Ethyl acetate  <3.3  <3.3  NG 
    Ethyl benzene  <2.5  <2.5  143, 297 
    m,p-Xylene  <5.4  <5.4  564,503 
    Toluene  7.5  6.0  252,495 
    1, 2, 4-Trimethylbenzene  <15  <15  221,227 
    1, 3, 5-Trimethylbenzene  <3.7  <3.7  221,227 
    o-Xylene  <2.5  <2.5  564,503 
    Freon 12  <1.7  <1.6  NG

    AEGLs 1 (Level) = Notable discomfort, irritation, or certain asymptomatic non-sensory effects.
    However, the effects are not disabling and are transient and reversible upon cessation of exposure.
    NG = No guideline values available.

    VOC Air sampling along Stoney Creek

    Further 24-hour and 72-hour air samples were and will continue to be collected and analysed in residential and sensitive areas near Stony Creek. The chemical odour in this area is due to the vapours or VOCs coming from the chemicals in the creek from the water run-off from the fire site. The 24-hour and 72-hour VOCs results were compared against the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Minimal Risk Levels (ATSDR MRLs). ATSDR MRL is for time periods of 1 to 14 days.

    The sampling results show the VOCs detected were measured at low levels and well below the health impact criteria. Although the VOC levels measured in air is low, you may still experience instances of odour because these chemicals can be smelt at concentrations below the health impact criteria. 

    Results for the 24-hour and 72-hour samples for VOCs that were detected above detection limits are presented in the tables below.

    Summary of 24-hour VOCs results for 07/08/2018 - 08/09/2018 (no exceedances).
     

    NG = No guideline values available.

     

    Summary of 72-hour VOCs results for 11/09/2018 – 14/09/2018 (no exceedances)

     

    NG = No guideline values available

    Summary of 72-hour VOCs results for 14/09/2018 – 17/09/2018 (no exceedances)

     Summary of 72-hour VOCs

    NG = No guideline values available

    The VOC sampling locations are presented by the blue dots in the map below.

    VOC monitoring

  • Smoke

    Smoke can affect people’s health. If people can smell smoke and are concerned, they should try to avoid the smoke by staying inside.

    People with heart or lung conditions (including asthma), children, pregnant women and the elderly are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in smoke.

    People with existing heart or lung conditions (including asthma) should follow the treatment plan advised by their doctor.

    If you are experiencing any symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.

    Further information on smoke is available here.

    Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing should call 000.

  • Asbestos

    24-hour airborne asbestos sampling and testing was first carried out on 31 August 2018 at various locations near the fire site. Further samples have been taken over a 24-hour period on another three occasions. 

    Future airborne asbestos monitoring will be undertaken when severe land weather (high wind) conditions are forecast by the bureau of meterorology and during major demolition and clean-up activities.

    Results for monitoring of asbestos so far listed in the table below have all been below the limit of detection.

    Sampling date  Sampling location  (fibres/ml) 
    31/08/2018 -
    01/09/2018 
    Charlotte St, Yarraville <0.01 
    Corrigan Ave, Brooklyn <0.01 
    Geelong Rd, Yarraville <0.01 
    01/09/2018 -
    02/09/2018 
    Lae St, West Footscray <0.01 
    11/09/2018 -
    12/09/2018 
    Kidman St, Yarraville <0.01 
    Geelong Rd, Brooklyn <0.01 
    Lae St, Footscray <0.01 
    15/09/2018 -
    16/09/2018 
    Hampton Pde Brooklyn <0.01 
    Beaumont Pde, West Footscray <0.01 
    Lae St, West Footscray <0.01 

    The airborne asbestos monitoring sites are depicted by the blue dots in the map below.

    Asbestos monitoring

  • Ash

    Ash particles fall from smoke. Ash is a fine powder that may be visible on surfaces. Although too large to breathe into your lungs, ash particles may irritate your eyes, nose or throat. Advice for minimising the impacts from ash:

    • Practice good hygiene.
    • Wipe down surfaces with soap and water.
    • Remove footwear before entering your home to avoid walking ash inside.

    If you come into contact with ash, wash it off your hands, face and neck as needed. If ash gets in your eyes, gently wash out with clean water.

    There should be no impact on any fruit and vegetables growing in your garden, but vegetables, fruit or herbs should always be washed in water prior to eating.

    If you are concerned or need further information, please contact EPA. Our officers are in the area and have not reported any areas of ash fallout.

  • Fact sheets

Page last updated on 21 Sep 2018