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Authorities say red dye causes Stony Creek pollution


September 26, 2019 19:23:37

Victoria's environmental watchdog has found 5 liters of red dye caused by the discoloration of Stony Creek in Melbourne's west last weekend, but its chemical content and potential impacts have not been confirmed yet.

Key points:

  • EPA found 5 liters of dye causes Stony Creek water pollution
  • Marchem Australasia was issued a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice
  • EPA senior freshwater scientist Leon Metzeling said the dye could have a negative impact on the creek's ecosystem.

The company responsible for the creek's pollution, Marchem Australasia, was issued a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice by the Environmental Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

EPA western metropolitan regional manager Stephen Landsdell said they understood the 5-liter bottle of dye was blown over in the wind and broke into an area that was largely concealed from view.

"This business was about 3 kilometers from the discharge point at Stony Creek," he said.

"It is up to all of us, and especially businesses that deal with potential contaminants, to remove as many risks as possible to ensure we protect and safeguard our environment from pollution.

"The business had previously conducted a plumbing survey and is currently investigating how one of their drains was connected to a rainwater pipe that went into a street-side stormwater drain.

"We would urge all businesses to conduct regular audits and environmental audits to avoid potential charges."

Marchem Australasia has informed the EPA it has already taken temporary action to block an internal pump, seal a drain pit and clean out affected drains.

In a statement, the EPA said it would ensure that the company undertakes any permanent changes that are required to address issues that contribute to the discharge.

Potential threats to the ecosystem

EPA senior freshwater scientist Leon Metzeling said the dye could have damaged the creek's ecosystem.

"Dyes in their own right can be toxic to aquatic life but it depends on the type of dye," he said.

"As it starts to break down, the bacteria break down and it will suck up oxygen from the water and that will have a negative effect and threaten oxygen requiring organisms such as fish and alike.

"So, depending on the compound, the dye can have direct toxic effects but as it breaks down it can have other toxic effects as well."

He said the impacts on water quality are unknown at this stage as the chemicals have not been confirmed.

In a statement provided to ABC, Melbourne Water said the red dye Stony Creek water pollution event would have no impact on the Stony Creek Rehabilitation Plan.

"Melbourne Water is committed to delivering the Rehabilitation Plan with all other Supporting Agencies and the community."

"Inspections so far have shown no observed impacts to wildlife in the waterway and to date, Melbourne Water continues to support the EPA and its actions."

Steven Wilson, president of the Friends of the Stony Creek group, said his major concern was that the dye could potentially have poisonous effects.

"I feel pretty upset about the whole thing," he said.

"It's a concern that it may hold back the recovery phase for an extra couple of years with these spills happening."

Second pollution event in 13 months

The dye spill came just over a year after a series of chemicals were detected in the creek, including the controversial PFAS firefighting foam, following a massive fire nearby.

The industrial blaze at a warehouse in West Footscray in August 2018 burned for days, spewing toxic black smoke over the surrounding suburbs.

Firefighting foam and chemicals washed out of the building into the Stony Creek waterway at the time, with residents saying thousands of fish were killed.

Investigation of red dye discovery is ongoing and further action may be taken in line with EPA's Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

To report pollution to EPA's 24-hour hotline call 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).









First posted

September 26, 2019 19:16:00

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