EPA Clean Up Notice results in a wide range of activities

Pond 4 at the Vales Point Power Station ash dam where the suspected asbestos was found

Delta Electricity’s ongoing air and ground testing has not detected any asbestos at the Vales Point Power Station ash dam and a final assessment of contaminated waste dumped at the ash dam is expected in July.
During inspections of the ash dam in October, 2018, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) found bonded asbestos in waste, which resulted in the EPA issuing Delta with a Clean Up Notice.
The Notice stated there was a “pollution incident” at Pond 4 in an area 500m long and 60m wide and containing “asbestos waste and other potential contaminants likely to cause degradation of the land resulting in potential human and environmental health risks.
“Uncontrolled asbestos waste has the potential to cause air pollution”.
A Clean Up Notice was also issued to a Delta contractor at that time, Howard Recycling Services (HRS), but that was revoked by the EPA.
A statement from solicitors Hunt & Hunt, on behalf of HRS, said the Notice was revoked because the EPA accepted that HRS did not have exclusive occupation of the subject site.
“There were a number of contractors with access to the premises, other than HRS, and we are unaware of any evidence linking HRS to the allegations of contamination,” the statement said.
“HRS emphatically denies any involvement in the Incidents of Pollution referred to in the Clean Up Notice 1570966.
“HRS engaged an expert to review its procedures and the expert determined that HRS complied with its requirements under the contract and the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.”
An EPA spokesperson said a subsequent “Prevention Notice issued to HRS to stop further waste entering the premises was revoked when the EPA was advised that HRS no longer had access to the site”.
Delta’s Company Secretary, Steve Gurney, confirmed it had “terminated the contract with Howard Recycling Services in November, 2018”.
HRS solicitors said: “The Prevention Notice was revoked after HRS informed the EPA that it had vacated the site.
“Delta purported to terminate HRS’s contract, but it is HRS’s position that Delta did not have grounds to do so.
“Upon Delta taking that action, HRS accepted Delta’s action as a repudiation of the contract and reserved its right to claim damages against Delta.”
The EPA is still investigating events leading up to this incident and is awaiting the final report from the occupational hygienist, which is expected in July.
Gurney said Delta was currently managing the site, and “no capping material has been received since September, 2018,” but coal ash is still being sent to the dam from the power station.
“Delta is currently working through a revised waste acceptance protocol with the EPA and no new material will be received until this process is completed,” Gurney said.
He said an independent specialist contractor had been taking air samples from around the site.
“As some material containing asbestos was found on the site, the purpose of the testing is to confirm that there are no airborne fibres which would pose a risk to Delta’s employees or the community,” he said.
“Testing since September, 2018, has not detected any airborne fibres, and further testing of the material has confirmed that it is bonded, that is, small pieces of fibro material where the fibres are contained in the fibro.”
Delta’s airborne testing is ongoing and results are provided to the EPA, which has confirmed that, “to date, asbestos fibres have not been detected”.
Gurney said an Accredited Site Auditor has undertaken testing of the soil on the ash dam using a method approved by the EPA.
“The purpose of the testing is to determine the composition of the soil, such as whether it meets the criteria for Virgin Excavated Natural Materials (VENM) or Excavated Natural Materials (ENM) and the extent and nature of any contamination,” he said.
“This will form the basis of a Remedial Action Plan,” Gurney said.
An EPA spokesperson said any recommendations made in the forthcoming report by the occupational hygienist would be considered and incorporated into a rehabilitation plan for the site.
The report will also inform any further action to be taken by the EPA.
The Clean-up Notice (1570966) issued to Delta Electricity is still in place.
The notice identifies the area that it applies to, but this may be updated once the hygienist’s report is received.

Media statement, May 31
Environment Protection Authority
EPA Public Register Notices
Email, May 31
Delta Electricity Company Secretary, Steve Gurney
Letters, May 21 and 23
Solicitors for HRS, Hunt & Hunt, Maureen Peatman
Email, June 4
Solicitors for HRS, Hunt & Hunt, Maureen Peatman
Journalist, Sue Murray

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