“Residents in parts of NSW’s Hunter Valley have been urged to avoid creeks running metres from their homes as agencies work to prevent toxic chemicals leaking from a derelict industrial site.
The refinery at Rutherford, previously owned by Truegain, has sat rusting behind chain-link fences for almost two years while pools of unknown substances collect on the concrete.
NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said there was a ‘high-level of PFAS contamination’ at the site – a group of chemicals used in firefighting foam.
AAP understands the agencies tasked with the clean-up are concerned a heavy rain could wash the chemicals into nearby creeks.
‘The Environmental Protection Agency is working closely with the former Truegain owners and Maitland City Council to ensure the site is suitably cleaned up and does not present a risk of discharge of contamination into the nearby Stony Creek, particularly after heavy rain,’ Ms Upton said on Wednesday.
Truegain, along with Australian Waste Oil Refineries which shared the site, were tasked with disposing of a variety of oils, fuels and chemicals.
But they faced heavy community criticism after being accused of emitting a mysterious toxic smog – dubbed ‘the Rutherford stink’ – believed to be behind a wave of asthma attacks and skin rashes.
Truegain’s environmental protection license was suspended in April 2016 following numerous contamination events and Hunter Water reportedly disconnected the site after PFAS was discharged into the sewer.
In September 2016 the refinery abruptly shut down, leaving workers out of pocket.
The ongoing management of the troubled site will be put out to tender, which closes on June 14.
The EPA announced it was still investigating other companies as potential sources for the PFAS contamination, but insisted town water and rainwater tanks were safe to drink.”
Read the full article by the Australian Associated Press