More than 1000 potentially contaminated sites identified in ACT
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More than 1000 potentially contaminated sites identified in ACT

New Environment Protection Authority figures reveal there are more than 1000 potentially contaminated sites in the ACT – but their locations will only be disclosed to prospective buyers.

The sites, published every four years in the State of the Environment report, include toxic relics of former fuel and chemical storage facilities, cattle dips and industrial spoil where heavy metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides and asbestos are suspected to be located.

An Environment and Planning directorate spokeswoman said the specifics of 1026 locations were held "commercial in confidence".

An ACT government spokeswoman assured the community there was no public health risk.

"Whilst the sites are being appropriately managed in accordance with the legislative framework they are not considered to represent a public health risk," a spokeswoman said.

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"Where a potential risk of harm to human health or the environment is suspected or has been identified the person responsible for the site is required to take the necessary management measures to mitigate the risk.

"In most cases contamination is associated with past industrial and rural land activities on private leases, with the majority of sites in industrial or remote areas where access by members of the public is extremely limited."

The list of sites includes remediated sites, those under assessment and those based on past or current activities that have potential to contaminate land.

Prospective purchasers of a property will be told if a site is contaminated with details of the toxic legacy obtainable through a contaminated land search.

The number of sites has steadily grown steadily from 668 in 2003, to 752 in 2007 and 899 in 2011.

In the ACT sites are divided into four broad categories – landfill sites, hydrocarbon sites, sheep and cattle dip sites and "other" sites.

The "other" sites are those believed to contain a cocktail of contaminants.

They include chemical treatment facilities, sewage treatment works and areas where chemicals are stored such as printers, government depots and golf courses.

"Since July 1, 2011, the EPA has reviewed and endorsed the findings of 209 environmental assessment/validation/audit reports," a directorate spokeswoman said.

"These reports have been into the suitability of the sites, from a contamination perspective, for their proposed and permitted uses under the ACT Territory Plan."

Potentially contaminated sites in the ACT:

Hydrocarbon – 540

Sheep dips – 153

Landfill – 202

Other – 131

Mark Sawa is a reporter for The Chronicle.

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