High levels of cancer causing PCB’s to be dug up soon

High levels of cancer causing PCB’s, as well as numerous other toxic substances1, all extremely dangerous to humans, are present in the area where dredging of Yarra toxins is due to start this week. Alarmingly, the Stockholm Convention (which Australia is a signatory to) describes just how nasty PCB’s are, listing them in the 'dirty dozen' of persistent organic pollutants. So- Why doesn’t the PoMC’s “World’s Best Practice” EMP make any mention of monitoring these toxins, either as they are excavated or when dumped in the Bay?

Even worse, no government agency has responsibility for the Port Phillip dump site.  

The PoMC has no legal power to dump hazardous waste in Port Phillip. The Minister for Ports Tim Pallas is required to approve any acquisition of land by the PoMC, but no approval to acquire the land for the Port Phillip dump site has ever been issued. This means the dump site is not even owned by the PoMC. There is no regulation over how toxic sludge can be dumped in the Bay, what can be dumped or where it comes from.

A trip down government’s short “memory lane” is most interesting.

According to John Thwaites in August 2006 (Hansard p2771), concerning a hazardous waste site at Nowingi:

“The Bracks government's policy is to reduce the amount of hazardous waste and to safely store it in a long-term containment facility. Residual waste must be safely stored, and that is why we are supporting the long-term containment facility and not continuing to dump it in landfill”

According to Justin Madden on 31 October 2007 (Assessment Report p38) concerning disposal of the hazardous Yarra sediments:

“PoMC proposes to place the sediment in the form of a Contained Aquatic Disposal (CAD) facility, combining a perimeter bund and with a confining cap, to isolate the contaminated sediments from the marine environment”

Covering almost 6 square kilometres of seabed, the CAD is sixty times bigger than the rejected Nowingi site. The Nowingi site required a licence under the Environment Protection Act 1970, it had an annual and a total capacity limit…… but the enormous hazardous CAD does not even have a licence.

The EPA is required to licence the use and disposal of hazardous waste, otherwise s27A of the act applies as follows:
(2) Any person who dumps, deposits, discards or abandons or permits to be
            dumped, deposited, discarded or abandoned a particular kind of industrial
             (a)  at a place not being a site licensed to accept industrial waste of
            that kind under this Act; or
            (b)  at a site which is licensed to accept industrial waste under this Act
            without the knowledge or consent of the licence holder-
            is guilty of an indictable offence. Penalty: 5000 penalty units, plus in the
            case of a continuing offence, 2500 penalty units for each day the offence
            continues after conviction or after service by the Authority on the defendant
            of notice of contravention of this section (whichever is the earlier).
            industrial waste means-
             (a)  any waste arising from commercial, industrial or trade activities or
            from laboratories; or
            (b)  any waste containing substances or materials which are potentially
             harmful to human beings or equipment;

What PoMC will be excavating from the Yarra certainly fits the EPA definition of industrial waste.  

So: Just how has the PoMC got away with this unlicensed Hazardous Waste facility they plan to construct in the Bay? Who is responsible for it, who owns the land, and what can be put in it?



1. SEES Sediment sampling. Appendix 37 Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) were found in concentrations of 9872 microg/kg, that’s 10,000 times acceptable screening levels.  Dieldrin was found in concentrations 22,000 times the acceptable screening levels. Arsenic levels were 66 times the screening levels. DDT was present in concentrations of 555 microg/kg, that’s 17 times the screening values.


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