Oakey water contamination: State environment ministers want power to clean-up Commonwealth land

originally posted on November 23, 2016


STATE and territory leaders will band together to demand the Turnbull Government give them power to oversee the clean-up of contaminated Commonwealth land, arguing current federal arrangements are severely lacking.

A concerted push has been organised for tomorrow’s ­national meeting of environment ministers, with states to rail against inadequacies in dealing with contaminated land like that at Oakey, where the town’s bore water is contaminated from the use of toxic firefighting foam.

The Gold Coast Airport and Townsville’s RAAF base are among sites found riddled with chemicals PFOS and PFOA.

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles – who wrote to his federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg several months ago on the issue – said Commonwealth sites were ­effectively out of bounds for state regulators, putting locals in continuing danger. The Minister said laws were such that the state had no powers to ­require the Commonwealth to clean up the land, oversee the rehabilitation or issue fines if not done.

The states want an agreement with the Commonwealth to allow them to treat federal land like any other land under state environmental protection and contamination laws.

“If these were private-sector sites, mine sites etc, the state would have a whole range of powers,” Dr Miles told The Courier-Mail.

“Everywhere else the department would be able to issue orders; they would be able to issue fines.

“There is an urgent need to resolve these challenges so we can protect the community and the environment.

“Ongoing surface and groundwater contamination issues have shown how existing Commonwealth laws can impede the ability of the state government agencies to deal with these sites.”

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