A MOBILE waste treatment plant has been set up at the former Truegain industrial site at Rutherford in an effort to deal with hundreds of thousands of litres of toxic firefighting foam contaminated water.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has refused to reveal how much per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] chemicals – at the heart of the Williamtown ‘red zone’ scandal - remains at the site after Truegain, also known as Australian Waste Oil Refineries, went into liquidation two years ago.
A spokesman confirmed there was still PFAS, ethylene glycol, oil, grease and petrol in storage tanks at the Kyle St former waste oil and water recycling plant.
- Dirty Deeds Part I: Insiders reveal decades of illegal dumping
- Dirty Deeds Part 2: How one small spill at Truegain's Rutherford plant almost cost worker's sight
- Dirty Deeds Part 3: Sacked workers miss out on unpaid wages as Truegain debt hits $5.79m
- Dirty Deeds Part 4: Truegain’s ‘dirty little secret’ exposed
- Dirty Deeds Part 5: Residents fear site could be ‘leaching’
Environmental remediation company Enviropacific has been contracted by the site owner to treat and remove PFAS material.
A spokesman for Enviropacific said the plant began treating contaminated water several weeks ago, but due to client confidentiality he was unable to reveal the volume and concerntration of PFAS being treated.
The mobile plant’s capacity is 50 tonnes per day. Enviropacific’s environmental operating licence does not allow it to accept or treat off-site waste at the Truegain site.
“Enviropacific is using its new state-of-the-art and EPA-licensed mobile PFAS water treatment plant on the site,” he said.
Truegain was forced into liquidation in September 2016, seven months after it was caught discharging PFAS chemicals, up to nearly 400 times the accepted health risk limit, into the sewer.
The company’s atrocious environmental record, exposed by a Newcastle Herald investigation last month, included oil and liquid waste dumping into surrounding waterways and properties dating back decades.
Truegain’s downfall came just months after Hunter Water took the unprecedented step of disconnecting the plant from its sewer network. Further investigations revealed PFAS up to 10,000 times the accepted health risk level, in multiple storage tanks at the Rutherford refinery.
More than a year after Truegain went into liquidation, while the derelict site was being monitored by the EPA, heavy rain saw storage tanks overflow.
An EPA warning to residents not to eat eggs, drink milk or consume meat from animals that have had access to Fishery or Wallis creeks remains in place after PFAS chemicals, as high as 22 times the recommended drinking water guideline, were found in Stony Creek that runs behind the Truegain site.
A spokesman for Enviropacific said the plant had been commissioned and began treating contaminated water several weeks ago, but due to client confidentiality he was unable to reveal the volume and concerntration of PFAS being treated at the site.
Concerned residents, led by Rutherford’s Ramona Cocco, have called for an independent environmental audit of the site. They want answers from the EPA about what’s in the soil and what’s being stored at the site.
The EPA declined to answer if any soil testing had been carried out at the site.
“The EPA required the landowner to clean up the site’s above ground storages as a priority prior to any contaminated site assessment,” a spokesman said.
“The EPA’s regulatory action is currently focussed on the immediate risks to the environment from the operation of the site.”
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