Groundwater contamination at Duri
UPDATE - Thursday 23 April, 2020
The specialised treatment unit installed in Railway Avenue, Duri, in March is working well to extract, clean and recover ground water contaminated with unleaded fuel.
The NSW EPA notified Tamworth Regional Council of fuel contamination of groundwater bores at Duri village on 29 December 2019. Since then Council has been working closely with residents to keep them informed of the situation and has taken the lead on extensive repeated testing as well as the clean up response.
The treatment unit is drawing water from two recovery wells - one immediately in front of the Duri store and one on the opposite side of the street. Bulk water and fuel is also being extracted from the domestic bore at 15 Railway Avenue. This water is being treated in the unit to separate the fuel from the water.
Up until the end of last week, a total of 43,000 litres of water had been taken from the wells and treated. Testing of the treated water has confirmed it is safe for stock and garden watering.
Tamworth Regional Council Acting Director Planning and Compliance. Ross Briggs, said specialist consultants have submitted a detailed Site Investigation and Remedial Action Plan report to Council and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
“This report will be used by the EPA to determine if the contamination is “significant” and is then to be regulated by the EPA under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997,” he said. “If it is not considered to be “significant”, Council will continue to oversee the issue but will consult with the EPA regarding the long term management of the site.”
All contaminated soil at the source of the contamination – a ruptured unleaded fuel tank - has been removed to a depth of about 4 meters below ground level to bedrock. The soil has been removed and taken to Tamworth’s Forest Road Landfill for temporary storage on a securely bunded and lined pad. It will undergo waste classification testing to determine how to dispose of it safely.
Council reminds all bore owners in the affected area to stop using the water for any purpose. Residents are using water in their household rainwater tanks to provide water for drinking as well as their hygiene needs.
Mr Briggs said in general Duri residents are doing the right thing, but unfortunately some residents were continuing to use private bores. “Using bores could draw the contaminated water to them, contaminating them and killing the gardens being watered,” he said.
UPDATE - Thursday 5 March, 2020
Monitoring bores are operating at Duri and specialised equipment has been installed this week to extract, clean and recover ground water contaminated with unleaded fuel.
Tamworth Regional Council Acting Director Planning and Compliance, Ross Briggs, said a monitoring well in Railway Avenue near the rail line is being used as an “extraction” well to remove the “dirty” water which will be treated and then the “clean” water will be pumped into an adjacent “recovery” well.
He said the treatment unit will remain in place for at least four weeks. It could be there for months or more than a year.
The next step is for all contaminated soil at the source of the contamination – a ruptured unleaded fuel tank – to be removed and backfilled to then allow the footpath and an awning to be reinstated.
Mr Briggs said it is expected specialist environmental consultants should have their report prepared for the NSW Environment Protection Authority early in March. The report will enable to EPA to determine if the site is deemed “significantly contaminated” under the Contaminated Land Management Act. If so, the EPA will then take over the regulation of the site and the clean up.
The NSW EPA notified Tamworth Regional Council of fuel contamination of groundwater bores at Duri village on 29 December 2019. Since then Council has been working closely with residents to keep them informed of the situation and taken the lead on extensive and repeated testing.
Council continues to ask all owners of bores in the affected area to stop using the water for any purpose. Residents have instead been using water in their household rainwater tanks to provide water for drinking as well as their hygiene needs.
Council is continuing to work closely with the NSW Environmental Protection Authority and NSW Health to manage the issue. Further updates will be provided when more information is available.
UPDATE - Friday 3 January, 2020
Two underground fuel storage tanks in the Duri area have been emptied today. Testing of these tanks will be undertaken in the coming days to confirm if they were the cause of the contamination.
Council has spent the day door knocking all properties in the Duri area delivering newsletters are surveys to local residents. If a resident did not receive a visit or information from Council they are advised to contact Council on 6767 5555.
Further water samples from the contaminated area will be taken next week to determine the extent of the contamination.
Council continues to advise residents in the area that bore water from the Duri area should not to be consumed and the use of bores should be limited to prevent further contamination.
UPDATE - Thursday 2 January, 2020
On Sunday, 29 December 2019, the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) advised Tamworth Regional Council that a HAZMAT team had identified fuel contamination of the groundwater at two Duri properties.
Council is currently completing investigations to determine the source of the fuel leak and contamination.
Testing to determine the spread of the contamination and the number of bores impacted has begun today. Ross Briggs, Tamworth Regional Council Manager – Compliance, said “Council is aware that many residents in the area rely on their bore water for both internal and external uses but at this time we advise that bore water from the Duri area should not to be consumed and the use of bores should be limited to prevent further contamination”.
If residents in the area detect a fuel odour in their bore water they are advised to contact Council on 6767 5555. Council has a list of registered water carters on its website for those seeking an alternative water supply - click here to view.
According to NSW Health fuel and other petroleum products contain a mixture of many different chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and other petrol hydrocarbons which are referred to collectively as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC).
Everyone is exposed to petrol hydrocarbons from many sources, such as petrol pumps and chemicals used at home or work. Common ways that people may be exposed are through breathing fumes while re-fueling a vehicle, working with petroleum products or touching soil contaminated with petrol hydrocarbons.
Some petrol hydrocarbons can have health effects. Fortunately, people are likely to notice an unusual taste, odour or appearance of water contaminated with petrol at levels far lower than those associated with any health risk. Due to this, the chance of people consuming water that contains harmful levels of petrol hydrocarbons is also low.
The short-term (acute) effects of consuming petrol hydrocarbons include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Often no symptoms occur following ingestion. Headache, dizziness or drowsiness, or irritation of the eyes, lungs and skin may occur following direct contact with high concentrations of petrol hydrocarbons.
If there is ongoing exposure there may be effects on the immune system, blood cells, lungs, skin and eyes. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that one compound in petrol (benzene) is linked with an increased risk of cancer in humans. However long-term risks are unlikely in this situation due to the short-term nature of the event.
It is advised that groundwater in urban and village settings should never be used for drinking due to its potential for microbial and chemical contamination.
Tamworth Regional Council will continue to work with NSW EPA and Hunter New England Health to ensure residents remain informed about the situation and understand the processes related to groundwater contamination moving forward.