Trichloroethylene Exposure

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation questions regarding TCE exposure.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The recent indoor air testing for TCE at Beverley revealed some results which were in the range and higher than those at Clovelly Park. Eight properties fell within the so-called investigation response range, with concentrations between two and 20 micrograms per square metre, and five within the intervention response range, with concentrations between 20 and 200 micrograms per square metre.

The five homes have recorded TCE air concentrations higher than those found at Clovelly Park. The 2014 SA Health TCE fact sheet reads as follows:

TCE exposure may pose a potential human health hazard to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system and male reproductive system . I f pregnant women are exposed to TCE at high enough levels in indoor air through their pregnancy there is an increased risk of congenital heart defects in newborns.

This fact sheet has since been revised and downplays the health effects, particularly to unborn babies as follows:

There are some reports in the scientific literature for an increased risk of heart malformations in newborns if pregnant women are exposed…during pregnancy. However, the evidence is weak and there is considerable uncertainty and no scientific consensus on this.

However, I note that the Department for Health in its own briefing note dated 3 July 2014, at the height of the Clovelly Park debacle, stated, as one of its points:

TCE, the primary volatile contaminate of concern in this investigation, has been classified by international health and regulatory agencies as carcinogenic to humans and toxic to the central nervous system, multiple organs and the developing embryo/foetus.

My questions to the minister are:

1.Why has the government revised its TCE fact sheet, specifically the health effects to pregnant women and unborn children?

2.Does the minister believe this is appropriate?

3.What health services and testing will the government provide to those who are concerned about their exposure to TCE, particularly in the long term, and including pregnant women and mothers of small children?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:44 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions on TCE contamination around the Beverley area in particular, but of course it applies more generically across those implicated areas of Adelaide and around the state where we have had historical contamination from past use either, for example, in dry-cleaning or indeed in metal shop fabrication as a degreaser or even in crash repair sites. It was not uncommon in the bad old days, as members would appreciate, that the knowledge wasn't defined enough in terms of how you dispose of this product. Often, it was tipped out the back of a shed; hence, we now have contamination to deal with in some of our groundwater areas.

The EPA is conducting the environment assessment works at Beverley. Currently, it is being conducted as an orphan site because there is no identifiable responsible party at this point in time although, of course, further information might give us an answer to that. The EPA has commenced two additional stages of assessment works in the Beverley area in early 2016: a broader assessment program and the validation site-specific assessment program. This followed the receipt of the preliminary human health risk assessment in October 2015.

The broader assessment aim was to determine the extent of the groundwater and soil vapour contamination in the Beverley area to identify potential source locations of the contamination. A report for the broader assessment was received by the EPA on 18 April 2016, I am advised. The report indicated that the plumes had largely been delineated over a number of potential source locations in the assessment area.

I am also advised the community was informed of the results of the broader assessment report on 9 May, and the validation assessment focused on addressing the potential health risks at specific properties where TCE readings fell within the investigation and intervention ranges of the TC action level framework. These works involve testing of vapour adjacent to or underneath houses at 21 properties and the testing of indoor air at nine.

The EPA received a draft report on 25 May 2016 for these works and immediately commenced discussions with property owners and residents who had their homes tested to discuss the results. The final report was delivered to the EPA on 28 June 2016, and a letter and information sheets were distributed on 29 June 2016 to property owners, residents and key stakeholders in the assessment area. I am also advised that a community working group meeting was held on 5 July to provide a further update to the community.

In terms of the specific questions about the changes to the fact sheet, I can only imagine that they were made on the basis of advice from the Department for Health. I have given details in this place previously about the responsibilities of the EPA as a regulator. They are not responsible for giving health advice. That health advice is sought in the first instance from the Department for Health but, to ascertain whether that was in fact the case, I will take this question on notice and have my agency respond to the question about why the fact sheet was changed and, additionally, on the basis of what advice, presumably from Health.