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Fiskville EPA report released
Residues from the historical use of firefighting foams present in and around CFA Training College Fiskville pose a low and acceptable risk to workers, trainees, visitors and residents, according to an environmental audit released today.
The EPA-appointed Environmental Auditor reviewed all reports and testing conducted over the past two years, including conducting his own tests, into possible contamination of water and soil at Fiskville as a result of past firefighter training practices. This audit report was a requirement of notices issued to CFA by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in 2013.
CFA CEO Mick Bourke said the results of the audit would be welcomed by all CFA members.
Listen to Mick Bourke speak with ABC Statewide Drive host Nicole Chvastek: >>
“I’m pleased the Environmental Auditor found the risks to people at Fiskville are low and acceptable,” Mr Bourke said.
“Our members can have peace of mind following confirmation from the Environmental Auditor that measures being taken to remediate the site by CFA are appropriate.”
Mr Bourke said the audit focussed on groundwater, surface water and sediments, soil, landfills, potential buried drum areas, and foam residues present in four dams and Lake Fiskville.
He said it was separate to a scientific study into links between past training practices (burning of chemicals) and potential health impacts (cancer) being conducted by Monash School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine.
Mr Bourke said the Environmental Auditor’s report acknowledged CFA was well advanced in honouring its commitment to implement measures to remediate the site. These measures were initiated by CFA in response to recommendations arising from Professor Rob Joy’s ‘Report of the Independent Fiskville Investigation’, which began just days after revelations in the media.
Situated within a highly modified farming environment, Fiskville provides a natural habitat for fish, frogs, rabbits and other species. In that context the Environmental Auditor concluded:
- Human healthrisks from potential exposures, both on-site and off-site, to residues from historical hot fire training activities are low and acceptable.
- Situated in an already heavily modified environment there are potential risks to the ecology on site at Fiskville - however works already underway at Fiskville will reduce these risks.
The audit examined a range of investigations arising from the Professor Joy Report – key among them, 12 reports compiled by leading environmental engineering firm Cardno Lane Piper (Cardno).
These reports found:
- No buried drums or contaminated groundwater.
- Minor soil contamination on-site and very minor levels immediately off-site, none of which presents a human health risk or an impediment to continued use of the site for fire-fighting training.
- No risks associated with landfills.
- Residues from firefighting foams (which are no longer used) were found in four on-site dams, Lake Fiskville, and (significantly diluted) in downstream creeks. None of these residues pose a risk to human health.
- The historical use of Fiskville dam water for fire training does not present a risk to CFA staff, volunteers, site visitors or occupants.
The Cardno Lane Piper reports have also been considered by the Independent Monitor for Fiskville, former Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe.
The Environmental Auditors report comes less than three weeks after the release of report prepared by Cancer Council Victoria which found CFA members who worked and trained at Fiskville between 1971 and 1999 did not develop cancer at a higher rate than the general population.
A parallel epidemiology study was being conducted by Monash University as part of a larger body of work into incidence of cancer in firefighters across Australia is due for completion around the end of 2014.
Mr Bourke said the examination of issues at Fiskville was almost certainly the most thorough ever undertaken at an emergency service training facility in Australia, with the audit report running to more than 10 thousand pages.
“No stone has been left unturned and no expense spared in ensuring Fiskville is safe. The investigations and remediation work at Fiskville are budgeted to cost nearly $25 million dollars, of which $15 million dollars has already been invested,” he said.
Mr Bourke said the comprehensive investigation into historical training practices and human health would provide a positive lasting legacy for generations to come.
“The ground breaking research undertaken by Dr Roger Drew, an eminent toxicologist into exposure to residues from firefighting foams is leading science that will be shared with scientific and firefighting communities around the world.”
He said while the audit report was a significant milestone, work to complete the implementation of Professor Joy’s recommendations continues. The Auditor’s recommendations have informed the development of a Clean Up Plan for the site which will be implemented over the next two years.
The first stage of civil engineering works at Fiskville has just been completed, which will retain process water on-site.
The second stage of works to remediate the surface water and sediments in Lake Fiskville and four dams will begin soon.
CFA members and the community are encouraged to read the Environmental Auditor’s report and those from Cardno Lane Piper at www.epa.vic.gov.au.
Chronology of events - Fiskville Investigation
6 December 2011: Claims firefighters have been exposed to harmful chemicals used in practical firefighting drills between 1970’s and 1990’s revealed in the media
14 December 2011: CFA announces Professor Rob Joy to conduct an enquiry into past hot fire training practices and potential for contamination at Fiskville
December 2011: CFA establishes support services for anyone who believes they may have been affected by historical practices.
December 2011: Two hygienists report no significant risks to the health and safety of people working at the site and those attending the site either as trainees or visitors.
26 June 2012: CFA switches to town mains water for practical firefighting training
28 June 2012: Professor Joy delivers ‘Understanding the Past to Inform the Future’ report to CFA.
12 July 2012: CFA accepts all 10 Professor Joy recommendations and commits to 11 additional management initiatives. http://www.cfaconnect.net.au/news/cfa-to-implement-recommendations.html
July 2012: Leading Australian environmental engineering firm Cardno Lane Piper commences implementation of the recommendations
August 2012: Program manager appointed with responsibility for managing the implementation of the 10 Professor Joy Recommendations and 11 management initiatives.
August 2012: Voluntary Health Surveillance program established
October 2012: Worksafe issued a formal letter stating that it “acknowledged the continued operation of the Fiskville Training Facility in accordance with the risk controls associated with dangerous goods and fire fighting water presented during inspector visits conducted since 6 December 2011”.
October 2012: CFA completed installation of two fully enclosed, above ground storage tanks to replace the previous open underground storage tank known as 'the Pit' to address concerns regarding run-off from the surrounding area, including dirt and clay particles entering 'the Pit' during rain events. The storage tanks are filled exclusively via town mains water.
3 December 2012: Line control of CFA training campus staff transferred to Executive Director Operational Training and Volunteerism
30 November 2012: Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health engaged to investigate the cancer incidence and all causes of mortality among Fiskville Practical Area Drill (PAD) workers and instructors who operated the Fiskville Training Campus 1971-1999. The study is expected to be completed by around the end of 2014 http://news.cfa.vic.gov.au/media/item/236-.html
December 2012: Environmental adviser appointed
January 2013: EPA issues clean up notices
January 2013: EPA-accredited Environmental Auditor appointed to oversee work at Fiskville and report to EPA
February 2013: Former Victoria Police Deputy Chief Commissioner Kieran Walshe appointed Independent Monitor - Fiskville
April 2013: EPA accepts CFA's current program of work to undertake environmental and human health risk assessments and upgrades to the site
May 2013: Victorian Government announces $16.8 million dollars in State budget for upgrades at Fiskville
May 2013: Eminent toxicologist advises CFA some members may have eaten fish containing residues from firefighting foams from dams at Fiskville and recommends blood tests and health checks. Following review of blood tests and health checks, Toxicologists advised risk is negligible
July 2013: Independent Monitor – Fiskville Kieran Walshe releases interim report indicating good progress implementing recommendations and management initiatives
January 2014: Engineering works begins to divert creek around Lake Fiskville, enhance drainage systems from the Practical Area for Drills (PAD), establish wetland to filter storm water and install bunds to increase the capacity of the dams
March 2014: Cardno Lane Piper completes their final Fiskville environmental and human health assessment reports.
11 April 2014: EPA-accredited Environmental Auditor completes his audit of Fiskville and submits his report to EPA.
7 July 2014: EPA releases the Environmental Auditor’s report, along with all of Cardno Lane Piper’s Fiskville assessment reports.