EPA investigates arsenic dumping near dam

By REN LANZONrlanzon@gladstoneobserver.com.au

THE EPA is investigating claims a substantial amount of arsenic is buried in the Awoonga Dam catchment which supplies Gladstone's water.

Following a tip-off that arsenic, copper and chrome may have been illegally buried on a Boyne Valley property, The Observer posed a number of questions to the Environmental Protection Agency which confirmed it was investigating the matter.

Information received by The Observer was that as much as a 'semi-trailer load' of the material, contained in drums, was buried at Builyan.

'The EPA regards this matter very seriously and is conducting an investigation,' an agency spokeswoman said yesterday. However, the the spokeswoman said there was not any conclusive evidence of an illegal act.

'The investigation is so far dealing with allegations relating to matters that go back as far as 1999,' she said.

The spokesperson said the matter was reported to the EPA in December last year and involved "persons of interest that are located in different parts of the state'.

She said the EPA "is investigating the unsubstantiated allegations and is therefore not in a position at this stage to name the parties involved''. The investigation will include chemical analysis of soil to determine if it contains contaminants from waste.

'Should the investigations reveal that an offence had occurred, at the most serious level of 'wilful serious environmental harm' the maximum penalty is $312,375 or five years imprisonment for an individual, and $1,561,875 for a corporation,' the spokeswoman said.

She said the EPA was aware that testing conducted by the Gladstone Area Water Board (GAWB) showed that water quality in the Builyan area complied with Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council water quality guidelines. 'The EPA believes there is no immediate risk of environmental harm.'

Yesterday GAWB chief executive officer Rod Hayes said if contamination existed, the board would want to know.

However, he said: 'GAWB can detect no current problem'.

'We will leave it to the EPA to do its work,' he said.

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