Page 857 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 April 2014

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(2) calls on:

(a) the ACT Auditor-General to conduct a performance audit of the management of the environmental reporting guidelines with specific reference to the Koppers Wood Products timber treatment plant in Hume; and

(b) the Government to provide detailed information, by Thursday, 8 May 2014, on what action is being taken to remediate the site and to ensure this situation is not repeated.

I rise today to talk about a serious issue which has come to light over the last few weeks. That issue is pollution at the Koppers Wood Products timber treatment plant in Hume.

I have no doubt that we have all heard the recent media reports on this topic and, like many in the community, I share concerns about this situation. The concerns I raise today highlight the lack of enforcement from the Environment Protection Authority during the time Koppers operated in Hume, as well as concerns about remediation of the site since Koppers vacated the site.

Koppers Wood Products timber treatment plant operated from the early 1980s until 2005 on a block of land in Hume. It has been alleged that during the period from 1998, when stricter environmental reporting was introduced, until 2005, when Koppers Wood Products vacated this site, the Environment Protection Authority had been lax in ensuring that the required testing was completed and submitted by the company.

The company was required to send groundwater test results to the EPA every four months between 1998 and 2005. However, in this time not even close to half of the reports were submitted. The company appears to have been negligent in meeting its reporting requirements, which is never good for our environmental management. However, what is more important here, and more concerning to most Canberrans, is the fact that our Environment Protection Authority, the body tasked with keeping our environment intact and safe, failed to enforce and follow up on these test results.

The EPA was established under the Environment Protection Act 1997 with an objective to protect the environment, ensure decision making incorporated ecologically sustainable development principles, establish a single and integrated framework for environmental protection and encourage general environmental duty of care.

The issue with the Koppers log site clearly shows that the EPA failed in some of these objectives. And it is not only about the time that Koppers occupied the site; there is concern about lack of action since they vacated the block. When independent testing was completed on this site in 2007, the government was advised that the groundwater recorded a carcinogen known as hexavalent chromium at 2,430 times the safe limit. Yet no action was taken by the government at this time.

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