Photos by Keith Pakenham AFSM
A multi-brigade field training exercise has tested response procedures for a significant chemical leak at the Tarago Water Treatment Plant in Drouin West.
More than 40 CFA volunteers from four brigades joined Melbourne Water and Ambulance Victoria at the facility in April to participate in the exercise, which simulated a chlorine leak at the facility with people trapped.
Tarago Treatment Plant is a critical piece of infrastructure in Drouin West, providing about 15 billion litres per year of clean water to the Mornington Peninsula and Westernport regions from Tarago Reservoir.
While chlorine is important in the treatment of water, it can cause serious injuries, loss of life and damage to property and the environment if not managed correctly.
Developed by a team led by Drouin West’s Training Officer Bruce Jewell, the training exercise was designed to test and review response and coordination procedures in accordance with the plant’s pre-plan, as well as test the facility’s boost system.
It was also designed to assess the effectiveness of response arrangements including those of specialist support roles such as hazmat response.
The exercise commenced with Melbourne Water alerted to a chlorine link through the facility’s monitoring systems, which was soon escalated to emergency services.
The page included the report that facility staff were trapped as a result of the leak.
Crews and vehicles from Drouin West, Drouin, Warragul and Nilma North fire brigades responded to the call, with rehab provided by Yallourn North.
Bruce said it was important for those who may be impacted by an emergency at the plant to know that local fire brigades could manage the incident.
“It was a complex exercise that was a great test of our capability,” Bruce said.
“A lot of pre-planning went into it and the support we had from our neighbouring brigades, especially Warragul who have a hazmat pod, was fantastic.
“There were some great takeaways, including the need for specialist support such as a big fill to boost water to the plant’s ring main.
“Personally, I walked away knowing that Drouin West with the support of neighbouring brigades, is more than capable of effectively responding to an event of this nature.”
Drouin West’s Junior members were also involved in the exercise, providing catering on the day.
Melbourne Water’s Water Supply Safety Coordinator Wayne Packham said the exercise gave all agencies involved valuable lessons and experience working together in an emergency with a number of complexities.
He expressed Melbourne Water’s gratitude in particular to the local CFA volunteers who dedicate their time and energy protecting the community.