Beverley Site Contamination

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Environment and Sustainability on the subject of Beverley contamination.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The EPA has conducted some further testing at Beverley and, according to its media release of 29 May, has discovered higher levels of contamination than previously discovered. In an interview one of the employees of the EPA stated that groundwater is at lower levels than previous testing, but soil vapour shows testing with higher levels than expected. Honourable members would recall that the key issue in relation to Clovelly Park contamination was the soil levels, which I note from the report were in the order of some 5,000 times the national guideline for concern, which is 20 micrograms compared to some 97,000 micrograms in some of the tests. My questions for the minister are: 

1.What is the worst potential risk to residents in that area from these levels? 

2.When was the last testing of groundwater conducted?  

3.Can he guarantee whether any relocations will be required within this testing area? 

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:31 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question with regard to Beverley and the EPA's investigations. Ongoing environmental assessments undertaken by an industrial company in Beverley in 2007 identified the presence of trichloroethylene, TCE, in shallow groundwater outside the site boundaries. As a result SA Health, in conjunction with the EPA, conducted groundwater investigations in 2007 and 2008 to assess the extent of the area affected by groundwater contamination. 

Based on the results of these investigations it was determined that the extent of the TCE contamination was delineated to a zone incorporating approximately 2,800 properties located within the suburbs of Beverley, Woodville South, Woodville West, Findon and Allenby Gardens. In March 2011 SA Health recommended ongoing management of the risk associated with TCE through a recommendation not to use groundwater for any purpose. 

A review of this information in July 2014, prompted by the intention to establish a groundwater prohibition area under the Environmental Protection Act, identified concentrations of groundwater contamination beneath both residential dwellings and industrial properties within an area adjacent to the former Electrolux site at Beverley, which warranted further assessment for potential risk to human health through vapour intrusion. I understand that SA Health has advised that the information available to date is not sufficient to ascertain whether there is a risk to public health. 

In response to SA Health's advice, the EPA proposed works focusing on assessing the potential risk to human health associated with the identified soil vapour and groundwater contamination of the area adjacent to the former site. Due to the likelihood of multiple contamination sources in the area, I am advised the EPA has not yet been able to determine who is responsible (or which company is responsible) for the contamination that occurred many decades ago. The EPA is managing the assessment program and at the same time will try to identify who caused the contamination. 

The assessment works commenced on 13 April this year for the installation of wells and soil vapour bores. Monitoring of groundwater and soil vapour was undertaken during April and May. On 27 May the EPA received preliminary results, which provided screening assessment of the area and show that TCE is present in both groundwater and soil vapour. Further assessment works are required to better understand the nature and extent of the contamination, and further soil vapour testing commenced in the week of 1 June. 

In order to best characterise the area, the assessment is being undertaken in a staged approach, including: resampling of 15 existing soil vapour bores, a passive soil vapour survey at up to 46 new locations on council verges, footpaths and vacant land, and crawl space testing in three DPTI-owned homes. The result of this assessment will inform an interim human health risk assessment and vapour intrusion risk assessment, which is expected to be received by the EPA in late July-August. It is likely further assessment works will then be required at a date to be determined once the findings of the interim human health risk assessment have been considered. 

In regard to communication with residents, I can say that on 28 May letters were distributed to approximately 170 residential properties within the reviewed assessment area to provide an update on the assessment program and next steps to be undertaken. Fifty-five of these properties in the immediate vicinity of the further assessment works were visited personally by the EPA on 29 May.

As part of the communication undertaken on 29 May, the EPA personally contacted tenants of two DPTI-owned properties to explain the data collected from below the surface of their properties and the next steps required to validate the results. Letters from the EPA also sought expressions of interest to join a local community working group to meet regularly during the assessment program. 
On 29 May, the EPA also distributed letters to approximately 2,800 residential properties in the greater assessment area, which is the current area with recommended no groundwater usage, to provide an update on the assessment program. All letters from the EPA reiterated ongoing advice that bore water should not be used for any purpose until further notice. They also included contact details for further information and any questions residents might have. 

In regard to the communications history, I can advise that residents were first contacted on 18 December 2007. SA Health doorknocked residents identified as having groundwater bores located adjacent to contamination detected in groundwater in the Beverley area. SA Health requested access to sample and test bore water to assess whether groundwater was situated beneath residents' properties. On 10 January 2008, SA Health contacted owners of seven of these properties and provided them with a verbal summary of the test results. 
On 15 January 2008, I am advised, based on the reassessment of the potential area affected, SA Health contacted residents in an expanded area requesting access to sample and test bore water. I am advised that on 16 January 2008, SA Health provided letters to properties within the assessment area. The letters informed residents of the investigation into groundwater contamination. SA Health also issued a media statement which advised residents not to drink bore water or use it for other domestic purposes such as filling swimming pools. 

On 30 January 2008, SA Health provided verbal and written information to residents outlining the results of the testing in the expanded area. In addition, based upon a revised assessment of the potential area affected by contamination, SA Health provided letters to residents notifying them of the expanded area of investigation in Beverley, Woodville South, Woodville West, Findon and Allenby Gardens. On 20 February 2008, SA Health contacted several residential property owners, requesting access to sample and test bore water to assess whether groundwater beneath their property had been affected. 

On 21 February 2008, SA Health with EPA assistance sampled an additional eight groundwater wells within the expanded area of investigation. SA Health provided the results of this testing verbally to residents on 3 March 2008, I am advised. On 1 July 2008, a joint SA Health and EPA letter was sent to properties within the entire area of concern summarising the investigations carried out and results. The letter advised residents of the SA Health requirement that owners of private bores did not use the groundwater for any purpose and that continued extraction of the groundwater would contribute to further spread of the contamination. SA Health also issued a media release stating that groundwater investigation was complete. 

The file was subsequently reopened by the EPA in July 2014 with the intention to establish a groundwater prohibition area under the Environment Protection Act 1993, as I just outlined. Based upon a review of this area initiated by the EPA and learning obtained from other environmental assessment programs in relation to vapour intrusion, it was decided that further assessment was required in the area adjacent to the former Electrolux site at Beverley. As I outlined earlier, the purpose of the assessment was to determine the existing groundwater and soil vapours and conditions in relation to TCE and other chlorinated hydrocarbons in order to assess the magnitude of potential vapour intrusion, which is quite different from vapour in soil. 

The work involved installation and monitoring of a groundwater well and soil vapour bore in the area adjacent to the former Electrolux site. On 8 October 2014, letters were sent to all residents and property owners and other community stakeholders who reside within the original 2007-08 assessment area. Letters contained information about the proposed assessment, a map of the assessment area, and an information sheet from SA Health regarding health issues relating to TCE. The EPA also held two community sessions in October 2014 to provide detailed one-on-one information to concerned community members. On 8 and 9

April of 2015, the EPA communicated with property owners and occupiers via letter to advise of upcoming works. 

The PRESIDENT: A supplementary from Ms Lensink. 

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:39 ): Can the minister advise whether any relocations may be mooted at this stage or not? 

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:39 ): I just outlined the program of testing that's required before the— 

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting: 

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The honourable member is clearly trying to outrage the council in some way or other. 

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: No, it's a simple question. 

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I have just outlined the body of work that needs to be done before the Department for Health and the EPA can make any assertions about that. She should not put the cart before the horse. Let the officials make those assessments and communicate with the residents involved.