Clean your act up

Stephen Drill, Ruth Lamperd

THE Country Fire Authority’s notorious Fiskville training base will be subject to a four-year clean-up following an Environment Protection Authority probe.

THE Country Fire Authority’s notorious Fiskville training base will be subject to a four-year clean-up following an Environment Protection Authority probe.

The watchdog has raised concerns about hazardous materials kept on site, and the potential for water downstream from Lake Fiskville to be contaminated with toxic chemicals.

It is the EPA’s first crackdown on Fiskville, and the CFA could be fined $600,000 if it does not comply with the clean-up notices. The burning and storage of toxic chemicals at Fiskville has been linked to the cancer-related deaths of more than 20 people.

And concerns about the dams at Fiskville led to the CFA switching to mains water to put out training fires.

The CFA said last night work on diverting a creek around Lake Fiskville was already under way, and added that the site was safe.

But former CFA chief fire officer Brian Potter, who lifted the lid on the Fiskville scandal, questioned the CFA’s claims of safety.

“We get these assurances from the CFA that Fiskville is safe and pristine, but the Environment Protection Authority is telling us it isn’t,” he said.

One of the EPA notices, seen by the Herald Sun, orders the CFA to clean up, treat, remove or contain contaminated soil, sediment and waste on the site.

It has set a 2017 deadline for this work to be completed.

The second demands the CFA clean up contaminants that may have leached into the ground and into nearby Beremboke Creek.

EPA authorised officer Tim Turnbull reported hazardous waste appeared to be on site.

“I  . . . am satisfied that industrial waste or a potentially hazardous  substance appears to have been abandoned or dumped,” he wrote. “I have  formed the view that this non-compliance, or likely non-compliance, must  be remedied.”

The EPA reports were on January 23. On March 5,  replying to a question on notice in Parliament, then emergency services  minister Peter Ryan wrote to Labor emergency services spokesman Jane  Garrett, declaring the site safe.

“To have made such a definitive statement . . . in light of the . . . report is deeply concerning,” Ms Garrett said.

United  Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the CFA was exposing  firefighters to unacceptable danger: “This is outrageous and reckless  conduct, and they must be held to account.”

The CFA acknowledged  in a blog entry on January 23 that the EPA had been investigating the  site, but made no mention of the notices.

CFA chief executive Mick  Bourke did not say why the CFA did not release the EPA notices when it  received them, but he said last night that Fiskville remained safe and  that EPA oversight concerned matters related to historical training  practices.

Les White, a spokesman for Mr Ryan, said WorkSafe had advised again yesterday that it was comfortable with training at the site.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/the-country-fire-authoritys-fiskville-training-base-subject-to-clean-up-after-environment-protection-authority-probe/story-e6frf7jo-1226621120681