News & Media

Fiskville update #25

By: Mick Bourke

  11.00 AM 22 February, 2013

Views: 2946

Yesterday, I visited Fiskville with Lex de Man, Executive Director Operational Training and Volunteerism, to meet with Fiskville Operations Manager Justin Justin and his staff. The purpose of our meeting was to get a briefing from environmental engineering firm Cardno Lane Piper on preliminary findings from their environmental and human health assessments which commenced in September last year.

Following the release of the Professor Joy Report in July last year, Cardno Lane Piper was commissioned to conduct a number of different investigations at the Fiskville site including assessments of soil, groundwater, surface waters and sediments, landfills, and buried drums. They were also commissioned to complete a Human Health Risk Assessment and an Ecological Study of Lake Fiskville and Downstream. These assessments are well underway and we expect them to be completed by the middle of this year.

Cardno Lane Piper's presentation on their findings to date was encouraging. They reported that they found:

• No buried drums in any of the suspected areas identified by Professor Joy
• Very minor soil contamination in two small areas on the site
• No risks associated with landfills
• No contamination of groundwater
• A small area of saturated soil (about 1-3 meters deep around one of the dams) which contains residues from foams used in fire training. This dam is no longer used and the saturated soil poses no risk to human health. Cardno Lane Piper advised that they will prepare recommendations for remediating this area.

As part of their search for buried drums, Cardno Lane Piper conducted extensive testing via electromagnetic geophysical surveys of the three areas mentioned in the Professor Joy Report (underneath the golf course, south of the airstrip and north of the reception building). No drums were found and no soil contamination was detected.

An investigation of the landfill areas involved the clearing of surface waste, installing landfill gas bores, electromagnetic surveys for drums and monitoring of landfill gas. No methane or flammable liquids drums were found and there was only minimal soil contamination. Cardno Lane Piper has concluded there is no risk from the landfills to people on site or nearby neighbours.

These results provide welcome news, but there is still more work to be done.

The Professor Joy and Golder Associates reports, which were made public and posted on CFA's website on 12 July 2012, announced that Lake Fiskville contained residues from fire suppression foams used in hot fire training and that significantly diluted residues will have flowed off site into the local creek. Both reports concluded that the risks to human health associated with water and sediment moving downstream via Lake Fiskville is extremely low.

However, Professor Joy recommended that further investigation be undertaken to fully assess and quantify any potential risks downstream. Cardno Lane Piper is now working with one of Australia's leading toxicologists to complete this investigation.

Preliminary results indicate no risk to CFA personnel or site visitors and occupants from the use of the dam water for fire training. While everyone is keen to see Cardno Lane Piper finish their reports, these investigations are complex and take time. The reports are expected to be completed by the middle of the year.

As a precaution, we recommend that the current safety procedures continue, including no swimming in or drinking from dams 1 and 2. We also recommend these precautions be extended to dams 3 and 4 and Lake Fiskville, and no fishing in any of the dams or Lake Fiskville. Additional signage around all of the dams and Lake Fiskville will be installed shortly.

During their presentation yesterday, Cardno Lane Piper also put forward their recommendations to modernise and upgrade the training water supply and treatment systems at the site. The proposed works include the following upgrades:

• Construction of a channel to divert Berembroke Creek around Lake Fiskville;
• Installation of a water treatment plant to treat waste water generated during hot fire training drills to make it suitable for recirculation or discharge back into the environment (e.g. to the creek or for irrigation).

These upgrades are designed to minimise flows off site from Lake Fiskville and ensure the ongoing provision of a safe, fit for purpose, sustainable water supply for hot fire training.

Further work is still required to design and progress works for these upgrades, and this activity is well underway.

Some of our members as well as members of the public may be frustrated by the time taken to produce test results, but we cannot underestimate the amount of work already undertaken. The studies are time consuming but we are committed to a thorough process of investigation.

We will provide more information once the final report is delivered to CFA.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015