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EPA completes preliminary monitoring in Cheltenham

21 January 2016

Preliminary monitoring conducted by Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) following a report of trichloroethylene (TCE) vapours in and around a site at 1228 Nepean Highway, Cheltenham has shown there is no immediate risk to the local community.

EPA officers, using handheld monitors that measure all volatile organic compounds in the air, detected very low readings, which can likely be attributed to a variety of commons sources such as vehicle movements in the area.

EPA Southern Metro Manager Leigh Bryant said that while the preliminary results were positive, EPA is also carrying out more extensive monitoring.

‘EPA is collecting 24-hour samples at several locations near the site to confirm EPA’s preliminary findings,’ Mr Bryant said.

‘Once completed, these samples will take 24-hours to analyse, and as soon as the results are known, EPA will inform the community.’

EPA began investigating potential pollution in the Cheltenham area today in response to being alerted to TCE vapour from an environmental auditor currently auditing the site that has been vacant for seven years.

Environmental audits are designed to ensure there are no legacy environmental issues that might impact the community.

Residents wanting more information or who have any concerns should call EPA on 1300 372 842 or visit www.epa.vic.gov.au

Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.

Background

TCE is a liquid that is denser than water, which means it can easily drain through soil and eventually reach groundwater, where it can move in whichever direction groundwater is travelling. It’s common for pollutants in groundwater to spread well beyond the source site, and the contamination issue can often be difficult to identify.

TCE from groundwater can turn into vapour that has the potential to enter properties through pathways such as stormwater pipes and service pits. The TCE may have been present for some time; however, it is not uncommon to find such contamination through the environmental audit process.

TCE was widely used in industrial areas as a degreaser and for cleaning machinery parts. It was often stored onsite in large drums or underground storage tanks, and its main use as a solvent to wash machinery parts meant that it was often spilled or discarded onto land or into drains. Sometimes the waste TCE – along with other chemicals – was disposed of in old quarries and tip sites.

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