Groundwater Contamination Around the Old Busselton Tip Site

Published on 04 February 2019

The City of Busselton has received notice from a Perth-based legal firm that it represents a group of property owners in respect of their claims regarding the quality of groundwater associated with the decommissioned waste disposal site on Rendezvous Road, Busselton.

In this notice, the City has been advised that these property owners will, in due course, likely seek compensation for loss and damage suffered as a result of the nuisance caused by the groundwater contamination.

The City has been and will continue to seek to work cooperatively with affected landowners (either directly or through their legal representatives) and with the relevant authorities including the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER), to address concerns raised. The City also acknowledges the right of affected persons to obtain legal advice and to take such action as is necessary or appropriate to protect their interests.

City of Busselton CEO Mike Archer said that the City had complied with its groundwater testing obligations under its licence since before 2000, and with reporting requirements under the Contaminated Sites legislation. The City has also taken these legacy issues extremely seriously since exceedances of contaminant levels were first detected in ground water testing.  

“We have engaged leading environmental consultants to assist in the investigations and we continue to undertake a rigours monitoring program in strict accordance with regulatory guidelines,” he said. “The City has been transparent in our disclosures and private bore groundwater test results have been provided to affected residents and the status of affected properties has been made publicly available on the DWER website.

We are also working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure these legacy issues are dealt with in a timely and efficient manner. All relevant work has been subjected to independent expert review by a qualified Contaminated Sites Auditor.”

This issue appears to relate, at least in part, to waste disposal methods at the old landfill site dating back more than 70 years, well before strict State and Federal environmental controls were introduced. Consumer and industrial products disposed of at the tip in the past, at a time when no environmental standards were in effect, contained pollutants that appear to have leached into the groundwater over time impacting on the quality of shallow groundwater in the area.

City records indicate that historic operations at the former landfill site had been similar to yester year practices across Western Australia. As a result, a number of properties have been classified under the Contaminated Sites legislation and certain restrictions in the use of shallow groundwater have been put in place.

Today’s environmental controls are far stricter and the City of Busselton has pro-actively established state-of-the-art waste disposal facilities including the first fully-lined waste disposal cell in regional Western Australia at the City’s Vidler Road site. Modern science also allows for much more detailed testing and laboratory results for a wide range of contaminants, which allows the City to be much more pro-active as far as public health is concerned.

“In response to this issue the City of Busselton has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars into environmental investigation and minimising the impact on affected residents,” Mr Archer said.

“In addition to monitoring and testing required under the statutory framework, the City has assisted potentially affected landowners with the testing of groundwater from shallow bores, soaks, wells and dams. The City also commissioned construction of a new water main along Rendezvous Road to provide private properties along the northern side of the road with access to scheme water.

In order to mitigate the impact of these water quality issues on the lifestyle and amenity of potentially affected landowners, the City has also provided, as a temporary measure assistance to these landowners, the installation of private water tanks and reticulation, for garden irrigation and other non-potable uses.”

The City is continuing to monitor ground water quality from monitoring bores in an area to the north of the City’s Rendezvous Road waste transfer facility. Further detail of the area under investigation is available on the City’s public website. 

The City expects to receive the test results of the most recent monitoring works within the next three months. Once the outcome of these tests have been received and subject to further requirements from the relevant authorities, Council expects to be in a better position to determine the extent of the contamination and various options moving forward.

In the meantime the City of Busselton, in association with DWER, has advised impacted residents to follow the precautionary measures put in place and avoid using groundwater.

Outcomes and objectives outlined in this statement align with Key Goal Area 3 in the City of Busselton’s Strategic Community Plan (2017): An Environment that is valued, conserved and enjoyed.