Potential contamination at Port Lincoln fuel depot

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is assessing a chemical groundwater contamination at a fuel terminal in Port Lincoln.

The agency published a notice this week about groundwater contamination at a fuel terminal on London Street.

An EPA spokesperson said the agency was first advised of a potential contamination in December last year.

“Section 83A of the Environmental Protection Act 1993 requires the notification of the existence of site contamination at a site, or in the vicinity of a site that affects or threatens underground water,” the spokesperson said.

The notification was in relation to perfluoroalkyl (PFA) substances, which are man-made chemicals that have been used in a range of industrial and consumer products since the 1950s.

The chemicals have been historically used in items including non-stick cookware, stain protection for fabrics, food packaging and some types of fire foam.

PFAs are being phased out worldwide because they do not break down naturally in the environment and can be found in low concentrations in soil, surface water and groundwater in urban environments. 

“Risk to residents has not yet been determined as the owner will need to carry out assessments of the area,” the spokesperson said.

“The owner has engaged a site contamination consultant to undertake further investigations, which includes assessing any potential risk to human health and the environment.”

The spokesperson said mains water was not affected by this type of contamination but any bore water should be tested to ensure the water was suitable for use.

Under the Environment Protection Act 1993, responsibility for site contamination is assigned to the ‘polluter pays’ principle where the original polluter is liable for clean up and associated costs on and off the source site.

The spokesperson said site contamination was often historical in nature and the original polluter may no longer exist or be unable to be identified and in these cases liability could pass to the current site owner.

“In most cases, the original polluter or past/current site owner must undertake or fund this work, including a communication and engagement program to keep affected communities informed,” the spokesperson said.

The owners of the fuel terminal have been contacted for comment.