Management of a Rutherford property where PFAS entered Maitland’s waterways will focus on stopping further leaks rather than removing contaminated liquid from the site, the state’s environmental watchdog says.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority announced in May it had called for tenders to manage the former Truegain waste oil refinery site after liquid containing PFAS overflowed from storage tanks into Stony Creek during heavy rain two months earlier.
With tenders set to close on Thursday, the EPA’s north branch director Adam Gilligan said the contract would not involve removal of contaminated liquid from the property.
Mr Gilligan told Fairfax Media he hoped the property owner would eventually be in a position to manage the contaminant.
“We take the polluter-pays approach,” he said.
“While ever we can, rather than see those costs borne by the community and government, we’d rather see it borne by those who are responsible.”
Fairfax Media reported last month PFAS – which is at the centre of the Williamtown red zone scandal – was found in Stony Creek, Fishery Creek and Wallis Creek, which runs into the Hunter River.
The EPA recorded levels up to 22 times the recommended drinking water guideline in Stony Creek after the March spill.
At the second of two drop-in information sessions for residents on Friday, Mr Gilligan said the situation at Maitland was different to Williamtown.
“The focus of this issue is really surface water discharge to the creeks,” he said.
“We haven’t got some of the complexities we’d have if we were dealing with ground water contamination and people using that ground water.
“Everyone in this area is on town water so that means what we’re largely dealing with is anyone who might be using creek water for watering gardens and livestock and those sorts of things. That’s really where we’ve been encouraging people to take precautions.”
About 85 properties were included in the EPA’s letterbox drop in the past fortnight.
Mr Gilligan clarified the reason behind EPA advice that residents could continue to sell their produce but shouldn’t consume it themselves.
“If you home slaughter a cow, if that cow has been drinking potentially contaminated water, then you are going to be exposed to the whole dose from that animal,” he said.
“Whereas, if you sell that animal into the market and you or I go into [a supermarket] to buy a couple of steaks, then we’re getting a very small dose from that individual animal. So there is a dilution factor.”