The West Australian exclusive

Rockingham councillors advocating for investigation into PFAS contaminated groundwater below Millar Road tip

Rachel FennerSound Telegraph
There are concerns about dangerous chemicals leeching into groundwater below the Millar Road Landfill site.
Camera IconThere are concerns about dangerous chemicals leeching into groundwater below the Millar Road Landfill site. Credit: The City of Rockingham

A City of Rockingham councillor is calling for an independent investigation into a local landfill facility due to concerns about groundwater contamination and the handling of hazardous materials.

The Millar Road Landfill and Recycling Facility was brought into the spotlight by Cr Robert Schmidt at the April 16 corporate and community development committee meeting.

Cr Schmidt moved a motion for the city to engage an independent investigation into the handling of hazardous waste at the Millar Road site.

Concerns about the facility first came to the fore when per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a chemical linked to cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, decreased immunity, liver problems and other serious diseases, were found in groundwater beneath the site.

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PFAS are found in common household products including non-stick cookware, surface treatments for fabrics, furniture and carpet stain protection applications, and food packaging, and are also used for a range of industrial activities.

The Millar Road facility is licensed to accept hazardous waste, including PFAS, which is deposited in a lined landfill and buried.

The facility accepts 1500 tonnes of hazardous waste every year and receives $222 per tonne.

At the April 16 meeting, Cr Schmidt, Cr Kelly Middlecoat and Cr Craig Buchanan voted in favour of the motion, which was enough for it to move to full council and be debated at the meeting on April 23.

Last year, a spokesperson for Environment Minister Reece Whitby confirmed traces of PFAS were detected in groundwater beneath the site but levels were “well below the drinking water quality guideline values published in the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan.”

However, there are concerns for nearby residents who access the groundwater via bores for drinking and showering.

City of Rockingham mayor Deb Hamblin referred bore owners to the HealthyWA website for more information about domestic bore water use.

Cr Schmitt has concerns about future legal action and believes Millar Road employees have spoken to lawyers.

In August last year, Bullsbook landowners received a $132.7 million payout after they were exposed to PFAS via firefighting foams used at military bases after it leached into the groundwater.

In a statement to the Sound Telegraph, Ms Hamblin said no employees had raised this with the city but they were aware of Mr Schmitt’s comments.

“The city operates the landfill under licence from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, which requires the City to undertake six-monthly groundwater and leachate testing by an independent National Association of Testing Authorities laboratory,” Ms Hamblin said.

“All monitoring of the site and groundwater required under the license is provided to the regulator.

“While low levels of PFAS have been detected down gradient (heading west) from the landfill, DWER have advised that there is nothing to suggest concerns for public health.

“The city has been asked to undertake further monitoring and has engaged the services of an accredited contaminated sites auditor to oversee additional groundwater investigations undertaken by qualified consultants.

“The publication ‘Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the Perth metropolitan area’ published by DWER in November 2022 provides information about PFAS water sampling in the Perth metropolitan area.”

Ms Hamblin said additional investigations were already under way into the site.

“Notwithstanding this, the city welcomes further investigation by the State regulatory authorities, DWER and Worksafe,” she said.

“Should anyone have any concerns, they are able to contact DWER’s Contaminated Sites Information Line on 1300 762 982 or contaminated.sites@dwer.wa.gov.au.”

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