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Toxic water leaks into underground

Date

Natalie O'Brien

Fumes and fire ... the blaze at a tyre factory in Villawood on New Year's Day.

Fumes and fire ... the blaze at a tyre factory in Villawood on New Year's Day. Photo: Fire & Rescue NSW

TOXIC chemicals that escaped from a massive tyre fire on New Year's Day have leaked into an underground water system in south-west Sydney, posing a potentially serious environmental threat.

The run-off, which contains poisonous and carcinogenic substances from the burning rubber tyres, seeped into stormwater drains underneath the site in Miller Road, Villawood, as firefighters fought to put out the blaze in a large shed stacked full of of recycled tyres.

It is not known how far the toxic run-off has travelled down drains and creeks that run into the Prospect Creek system, and in turn the Georges River. Environment Protection Authority officers have already reported finding two dead eels in the waterways, though they have also seen live fish in water further downstream.

Henry Moore, the acting director of waste and resource recovery for the EPA, said they are trying to determine how far the ''fire-water'' has spread. ''Preliminary findings are that it reached about 1.5 kilometres down a concrete stormwater channel and canal leading from the site at Miller Road, where the fire occurred,'' Mr Moore said.

''The stormwater drains from the site are now blocked so no more water can leave the site.''

The EPA told Fairfax Media it is believed the contaminated water did not reach Prospect Creek, which joins the stormwater channel at Woodville Road, but it cannot be certain.

No public warning has been issued because it is understood that no one draws water from the stormwater channel for irrigation or drinking and the flow of contaminated water from the site has been stopped.

The EPA was testing water from the concrete canals under the site.

The EPA has also issued a clean-up notice to the site operator, Shark Pty Ltd, requiring them to pump out contaminated water.

Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a senior adviser with the National Toxics Network, said the fire-water was likely to contain neurotoxins, carcinogens and heavy metal but the extent of the environmental impact would depend on the concentration of the toxic chemicals.

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