News & Media

Fiskville update #30

By: Mick Bourke

  11.00 AM 11 May, 2013

Views: 3109

CFA welcomes the $16.8 million funding announced by the Victorian Government on Tuesday which enables us to continue our important upgrades at CFA training campuses - in particular Fiskville Training College.


This will be used to fully implement the 10 recommendations of Professor Rob Joy’s Understanding the Past to Inform the Future report, as well as the additional health and environmental initiatives introduced by the CFA Board.


The additional funding announced by the Victorian Government will secure the future of Fiskville as a firefighter training facility for decades to come and is a strong vote of support from the government for what we’re doing. 


The investment will result in CFA members having access to one of the best training facilities in the country and allow us to continue with a number of crucial projects such as: 


  • Upgrades to the water supply and treatment systems at Fiskville, as well as upgrades to our six regional training grounds where needed
  • Continuing to implement our health surveillance program as well as the Monash health study
  • Environmental upgrades that will see Fiskville Training College striving for international accreditation for environmental management (ISO 14001)
  • Working toward introducing high standards for occupational health and safety to (AS4801) for all training campuses.

We’ve been open with our people about the work taking place and this is a good opportunity to again reflect on how far CFA has come and where we’re going.


More than $10 million has already been spent to address concerns around the historical use of chemicals for live firefighting training at Fiskville since CFA was made aware of the issue in December 2011, including the cost of the Professor Robert Joy Investigation.


Immediately after the allegations were raised, CFA engaged hygienists and environmental consultants Hazcon to inspect Fiskville and the other CFA training grounds, who found there were no significant risks to the health and safety of on-site employees, those training there, or visitors.


Shortly thereafter, CFA commissioned a preliminary investigation into the fire training water system on site and began ongoing monthly independent laboratory water testing as a result.  CFA began investing in new plumbing and water storage facilities and switched to town mains water in June 2012. All fire training water at the site is now supplied via two fully enclosed above ground tanks and sourced via town mains water.


Professor Robert Joy’s Understanding the Past to Inform the Future report was released to the public in July 2012 and CFA committed to implementing all the recommendations.


This full and thorough investigation was crucial to determine the full extent of the historic practices, so that there would be no doubt in the minds of our people as to their safety. The report gave CFA a long term strategy to ensure the ongoing health of our people and environment and we engaged environmental engineering firm Cardno Lane Piper to oversee these improvements.


Cardno Lane Piper’s initial investigations into soil, surface water and groundwater quality and landfill sites found negligible risk to CFA personnel or site visitors from the historical use of the dam water for fire training.


While no buried drums or groundwater contamination was found, some minor soil contamination was found in two small areas on the site as well as a small area of saturated soil around one of the dams which contains residues from foams used in past fire training. CFA ceased using this dam in June 2012 and the soil poses no risk to human health.  Cardno Lane Piper will coordinate remediation of this area as part of the upgrades to the site.


CFA has implemented appropriate risk controls with the oversight of Worksafe and Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and draft designs have been prepared for the first stage of upgrades to the site.  This includes plans to divert a local creek around Lake Fiskville to minimise off-site discharges and plans to upgrade storm water systems around the PAD in preparation for the installation of a new water treatment plant.  Consultation has commenced with the relevant authorities regarding permits and works approvals for these upgrades.


As recommended by Professor Joy, Cardno Lane Piper is undertaking analysis to prepare key reports including three human health risk assessments (on site occupational, on site Fiskville community, and downstream) and an ecological study of Lake Fiskville and downstream. Cardno Lane Piper is undertaking these assessments in consultation with one of Australia’s leading toxicologists.     


These studies are complex and time consuming, and the reports are expected to be completed in the middle of the year. This will set out the further remediation work necessary to ensure that Fiskville complies with the highest possible standards around environmental management and occupational health and safety.


As well as being overseen by an independent EPA statutory auditor, this work is being monitored by former Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe – the recently appointed Independent Monitor - Fiskville. This oversight provides assurance to our members and the public that CFA is effectively implementing the recommendations and initiatives to which it committed in its response to the Professor Joy Report.


As always, the health and safety of our people is the number one priority for CFA. The voluntary health surveillance program has now been taken up by over 90 people from the high and medium risk of exposure categories and the Health and Welfare team is continuing to contact people who meet the risk criteria and encourage them to participate in the program.


CFA has commissioned a Monash Heath Study to determine any link between cancers, exposure levels and chemicals burnt at Fiskville. Like our members, we want the facts so we can determine a path forward.


I’d like to again thank the Fiskville staff for all they have had to endure from the heavy and often less than balanced public scrutiny; their ongoing daily work; and their perseverance. We want them all to know that CFA appreciates their efforts and support as we work through this project which will result in a better training facility for everyone.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015