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The last round of soil results were from samples taken on 26 May and 10 June 2015 at sites around Morwell in the Latrobe Valley. Sample sites were found in a mixture of rural, residential and parkland areas.
The main metals and compounds found in the soil samples collected from March 2014 to June 2015 were those that we expect would naturally be present in soil in this region.
The results from soil testing done in May–June 2015 were consistent with testing that was done from March 2014. Fourteen months of sampling showed that the soil in the Latrobe Valley was not changed by the Hazelwood mine fire. As a result, this part of the environmental monitoring program ceased in July 2015. EPA continues to do soil sampling in the Latrobe Valley as part of our normal work on suspected or confirmed pollution events.
The soil sampling results from March 2014 to March 2015 are presented in EPA Hazelwood Recovery Program water, soil and ash assessment – Morwell and surrounds (publication 1600).
Why did we sample the soil?
Due to the ash that fell in and around Morwell from the Hazelwood fire, EPA tested the soil to see whether the presence of ash had changed the soil chemistry. From this testing, we were able to detect if the ash had any impacts on the soil in the region.
What did we find from our soil sampling?
The last soil samples were taken from sites in the Latrobe Valley on 26 May and 10 June 2015. In each round of soil sampling, EPA took soil samples from both the surface and subsurface (soil below the surface) at each site.
Although some sites recorded slightly elevated levels of substances such as aluminium, zinc and manganese, these occur naturally and are considered a normal part of the soils found in the Latrobe Valley region. Furthermore, the levels of all metals and compounds tested at the sampling sites in May and June 2015 were within the guidelines EPA reports against:
Testing in mid-February 2014 showed that some surface soil samples had ash present. Further testing found no evidence of ash in the soil.
What do the results mean?
The June 2015 results from soil tested in the zones most affected by the mine fire confirm that soils in the area were unchanged by the fire. The soil at all sites can be considered safe for residential activities. This includes direct contact with the soil through activities such as digging and playing in the soil.
Results also show that the soil in the affected area is very similar to soil in the zone further away from the mine fire. From this we can conclude that the ash that was deposited on the soil did not cause significant changes to the natural environment.
Overall, the results for the soil at all sampling sites were what we would expect for the soils in the region.