Toxic soil removed from childcare centre

Reading a Newspaper

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

By Alex White

Toxic soil will be stripped from a Melbourne childcare centre and a further 13 private properties are under review after testing found the cancer-causing chemical PFAS on site.

The contaminated section of playground at the Milleara Integrated Learning Centre in Keilor Park has been restricted, and water tanks removed, while parents have been notified of the risk.

It comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers whether another 13 homes and businesses — including three childcare centres — also need to be remediated.

The PFAS was discovered during a testing blitz by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade after concerns were raised earlier this year that properties adjoining stations or built on decommissioned MFB sites had the chemical on their land.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said the risk was low but confirmed sites would undergo costly remediation.

Residents have also been warned to not eat homegrown food after PFAS was detected in vegetables, fruit and herbs.

“Our number one priority is the wellbeing of our firefighters and the community — that’s why we’re working closely with MFB and relevant authorities to keep communities informed and updated on our progress,” Ms Neville said.

The fire agency announced a testing blitz on private properties — along with nine stations — earlier this year after firefighters returned blood tests with elevated PFAS levels.

The childcare centre declined to comment, but Moonee Valley Council CEO Bryan Lancaster said the centre remained operational and parents were being kept informed.

Opposition Environment spokeswoman Bridget Vallence said the fact that property was being remediated was alarming and slammed the government for their lack of transparency.

“Our communities deserve to know the truth about the extent of the toxic soil situation across Victoria and exactly why Daniel Andrews and the EPA remain tight-lipped about the mess,” she said.

“The Andrews Labor Government needs to spell out what remediation works are needed and where this toxic soil is being dumped.”

An MFB spokeswoman said there was no risk to human health.

“Testing undertaken to date at neighbouring properties indicates PFAS levels are safe and the risk to residents and occupants of coming into contact with PFAS is low.

MFB has been in constant contact with the community and key stakeholders around this issue and will continue to provide transparent communication as testing is finalised.”

The MFB will foot the bill for all remediation works and the cost of testing, which is likely to be worth tens of thousands of dollars.