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Jan 8 2009: Australia Refuses To Join Ban on Pesticide (Endosulfan)

Australia's third largest agribusiness exporter, Nufarm, holds more than one-third of the shares in India's largest endosulfan manufacturer, Excel Industries.

A Greenpeace Report

Approximate location of Nufarm facility in Western Melbourne. Black dot (N).

Executive Summary

Recent History

What was found in Nufarm's Effluent?

The EPA Are Warned About Nufarm's Discharge of Dioxins

Where the System Failed

Nufarms Licence to Pollute

Nufarm Operations in Fawkner

Nufarm Operations in Laverton North

June 1991

Executive Summary

This document documents the operations of Nufarm and the regulatory authorities. Nufarm is a pesticide company in North Laverton. In May 1990, Greenpeace revealed that Nufarm was discharging illegal levels of chlorinated phenols and high levels of dioxins and furans into the sewerage system.

The EPA and Nufarm

The regulatory authorities, (Environment Protection Authority EPA) and the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) were aware of the chlorinated phenol problem through monitoring data but testing of the discharges was not done for dioxins and furans. Moreover the EPA were warned, by their own staff, about dioxin discharges from Nufarm as early as 1978.

The EPA were specifically warned, by a member of the public, that 2,4-D (the major pesticide produced by Nufarm) contained dioxins in 1986. This caution and a follow-up letter, were dismissed by the EPA.

The EPA was aware of some of the other chemical problems being created by Nufarm's operations at their present site in North Laverton. Nufarm's illegal waste discharge to Cherry Creek, in Altona, illustrates the point. This discharge was first detected by EPA staff in 1973. Nufarm was finally prosecuted in 1979, but the chemical waste was discharged again in 1982. It is astonishing that a discharge that "posed an obvious threat to aquatic life and wildlife" should continue for 5 years and then be repeated.

As well as liquid effluent discharges, Nufarm routinely broke their air discharge licence. Again the practice was not stopped and at times was almost completely unregulated by the EPA. After an apparent short period of compliance with discharge requirements, the EPA licence continued to be broken. One of the worst cases occurred in March 1988, when Nufarm's self monitoring data shows 137 breaches.

"Chemical tainting" of meat at a nearby abattoir also illustrates government inaction. As early as 1978, complaints started. Five years later, in 1983, they still continued.

By 1990, even after the Greenpeace action, government departments were unable to effectively prosecute Nufarm.


The MMBW also had opportunities to act on Nufarm's discharge and monitor for dioxins. In the late 70's, they were liaising with the EPA over Nufarm's unlicenced discharge. At the same time, EPA officials were raising questions over the contamination of this effluent with dioxin.

Like the EPA, the MMBW's record in dealing with Nufarm's discharges is appalling. Nufarm first broke the terms of their Trade Waste Agreement in 1976. Nufarm had their Trade Waste Agreement rescinded in 1983 for non-compliance but continued to discharge illegal levels of chlorinated phenols over the next 6 years. The MMBW tried to control Nufarm by "negotiating" with them but the "negotiations" dragged out over 14 years, until the Greenpeace action. During this 14 year period, not only did Nufarm's discharge damage the sewer structure but the discharge was "toxic to the farm" inhibiting the breakdown of sewage at Werribee.

The Regulatory System

The Nufarm action has shown up many flaws within Victoria's system of control. 98% of Melbourne's industrial waste is disposed of to the sewer. The disposal agreements are, however, secret and the MMBW record in prosecuting offending industries atrocious. The EPA, with their overall mandate to protect the environment, still did not have any copies of Trade Waste Agreements by early 1991. The Auditor General's report of this year, commenting on this sorry state of affairs, concludes that the EPA is not fulfilling its role.

In July 1990, Nufarm received a licence to pollute, thereby legalising their dioxin discharge. In justifying this highly dubious licence, the government misrepresented overseas data and ignored the effects of bioaccumulation in the food chain. The decision was made against a background where other world governments are cutting the discharges of dioxins into the environment.

For example. Werribee sewerage farm dioxin levels are over those recommended for pasture use in Germany.

With this new and significantly less stringent licence, Nufarm still managed to breach the pollution limits.

The history of Nufarm's operations documents 2 1/2 decades of community opposition and government inaction. Workers have been hospitalised and various politicians have tried to stop what at times appears to be uncontrolled operations.

Nufarm's story cannot be complete without the mention of their old factory site at Fawkner. The EPA tested this site in February 1990, but found no significant levels of contamination. After the Greenpeace action in May 1990, the site was revisted and found to contain extremely high levels of chlorinated phenols and dioxin.

In conclusion, the responsibility Nufarm and the Victorian government might have taken towards preventing pollution was minimal. If Nufarm had been committed to anticipating problems, preventing accidents occurring and acting on known pollution breaches, and if the Victorian government had been committed to the role of policing industry, much of Nufarm's sorry history could have been averted.

Recent History

May the 7th, 1990 - Greenpeace arrived at the Nufarm chemical company in North Laveton, Melbourne. Greenpeace conducted a direct action at the Nufarm pesticide factory, taking control of the plant's effluent discharge into the sewer.

Four activists, protected by special suits and gas marks, secured themselves inside a specially constructed metal cage. They inserted a valve into the Nufarm sewer connection to enable Greenpeace to shut down the discharge.

Nufarm is a major producer of a range of agricultural pesticides, including herbicides and insecticides. Nufarm's parent company is Fernz (New Zealand). In 1991, they made the second largest profit for a chemical producer in Australia, behind ICI Australia (Business Review Weekly, May 1991). The Nufarm plant at North Laverton, a suburb of Melbourne, is a major producer of the herbicide 2,4-D, one of the most commonly used herbicides in Australia. This substance, when combined with 2,4,5-T produces Agent Orange. The plant's effluent is discharged into the sewer, and hence to the MMBW sewerage farm at Werribee, which in turn discharges its effluent into Port Phillip Bay.

Following the Greenpeace action, the EPA took samples of Nufarm's discharge. The analysis results were released on May the 10th 1990. The EPA tests found furans (2,3,7,8-TCDF) and other toxic polychlorinated dioxins. Dr Brian Robinson, Chairperson of the EPA, said that as there are no safe levels for dioxins and furans, "they should not be entering the sewerage system at all. They are dangerous in the sense that they can cause harm to the environment in even very small levels...Our major concern is that these materials bioaccumulate. Why take the risk if we don't have to?" (The Age, May 1990)

Production of 2,4-D at Nufarm was halted and the company required to conduct an environmental audit, the first of its kind in Australia.

What Was Found in Nufarm's Effluent?

The Greenpeace action was taken following testing of samples of Nufarm's effluent. The discharge sample was tested by National Analytical Laboratories and found to contain 1.4 parts per billion of the furan 2,3,7,8-TCDF. This level of 2,3,7,8-TCDF is equivalent to 143 parts per trillion of the dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD, the substance used as the world standard for comparisons of dioxin/furan toxicity. As a point of comparison, 0.038 parts per trillion of this highly toxic compound in water is enough to start killing fish. (Mehrle PM. et al. 1988)

Nufarm's effluent also contained chlorophenols, a group of chemicals that are the precursors for the manufacture of 2,4-D. Several different types of these chemicals were found, including dichlorophenol and trichlorophenol. The Greenpeace samples contained up to 5,000 parts per million of these substances, 100 times Nufarm's allowed limit as set in their old Trade Waste Agreement (NAL Report, Greenpeace, April 1990).

Compounds Found in Nufarm's Effluent

2-chlorophenol 4-chlorophenol phenol 2,4-dichlorophenol 2,5-dichlorophenol
cresols 2,4-dichloro-a-(chloromethyl)-benzenemethanol (T) tetramethyl benzene napthalene 2,4,6-trichlorophenol
2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid (2,4-D) another dichlorophenoxy acetic acid 1-(3,4-dichlorophenoxy)-2 propanol (T) phenoxy acetic acid phenyl-propanedioic acid (T)
methyl (ethylethyl) benzene ethyl dimethyl benzene (1,1-dimethylethyl)-4-methoxy phenol n-phenyl benzeamine dibutyl ester ehtanedioic acid (T)
phenyl-2',5,5'-trichlorophenol 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin isomers of tetrachlorodibenzofuran isomers of tetrachlorodibenzodioxin
isomers of pentachlorodibenzofuran isomers of heptachlorodibenzofuran isomers of heptachlorodibenzodioxin octachlorodibenzofuran octachlorodibenzodioxin

T = Tentative Identification. Source: NAL Investigation and Report, Greenpeace, April 1990; NAL Report, EPA sample, May 1990.

The EPA and MMBW

The EPA of Victoria, is the body in the state with prime responsibility for the environment. It is supposed to keep industry, government and people responsible and honet on their dealings with the environment.

The EPA licences sewerage boards, including those which accept industrial waste, to discharge waste to the environment. The EPA does, however, also have powers over the discharge of waste into the sewerage system (EPA Act 28B) but they can act only after a breach of the sewerage authority's licence or a pollution incident has already occurred. (Fees and Penalties Bill Speech 1990) In Nufarm's case, the breach had occurred with detectable levels of dioxins and furans being discharged from the Werribee sewerage farm, becuase Werribee sewerage farm is not permitted to discharge dioxins and furans. (EPA Licence EW107-110 & EW25; NAL Report, EPA, May 1990).

The MMBW is responsible for monitoring and ensuring that Trade Waste Agreements, the sewerage Board's licences for companies to discharge waste into the sewer, are complied with. These agreements have levels for chemical discharges set by the MMBW, overall criteria being determined by the Trade Waste By-Law. The agreements are secret and there is no public access to them.


The EPA Are warned About Nufarm's Discharge of Dioxins

The EPA were first warned about the presence of dioxins in Nufarm's discharge in 1978. In 1978, effluent from Nufarm was being discharged illegally from the plant to an open drain behind the factory. This effluent was found to contain 2,4,-D, 2,4,5-T and pentachlorphenol (PCP), and water flowing from the drain into the Cherry Creek/Lake System.

In December 1978, the EPA's principle Water Quality Officer wrote in regard to unlicensed discharges from Nufarm into the creek:-

"A by product of 2,4,5-T manufacture, dioxin or TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin), has received considerable publicity recently because it causes serious acne and has been linked with cancer and birth deformities. I would suggest that the analyst be contacted to ascertain if the samples were analysed for dioxin." (EPA Memorandum 28/12/1978)

"I anticipate ... that a licence application for such discharges would be refused by the Authority (or M.M.B.W.) because of the obvious threat to aquatic life and wildlife, and the possible health risk to humans." In a handwritten note attached to the internal memorandum, it is stated that the Department of Agricultural Laboratories were contacted on the matter but they did not have facilities to carry out the analysis. The question of dioxin contamination then appears to have been dropped.

The EPA were then, however, warned that 2,4-D and not just 2,4,5-T, could contain dioxins. This time it was left to a member of the public to bring the matter to their attention.

A letter to the EPA in February, 1986 states that:

"Studies of 2,4-Dichlorophenol acid amine and ester derivatives have revealed relatively high levels of dioxins." (Cochrane et al, J. Chromatography, 217, 289, 1981))"

"Given these arguements, I invite the EPA to show, beyond reasonable doubt, that:"

"4. no dioxins are discharged to air"

"5. and that the area surrounding the plant is free of dioxin residues. " (Letter to EPA 17/2/86, emphasis added.)

The EPA response to this letter is highly unsatisfactory. They write back in March 1986:

"4. It is our understanding that Nufarm chemicals has never manufactured 2,4,5-T at Laverton. Consequently, no T.C.D.D has been discharged to the atmosphere"

"5. Following from item 4 above, the area surrounding the plant is free of T.C.D.D. residue" (EPA letter 14/3/86, emphasis added).

The EPA's Principle Water Quality Officer attached the following appendix to the memorandum in which he considered the dioxin contamination. The concentrations of chemical present in Nufarm's unlicensed discharge were:-

Recommended Maximum Concentration (ug/litre)
Maximum Concentration Detected (ug/litre)
Times Maximum Concentration Exceeded
2,4 Dichlorophenol
2,4,6 Trichlorophenol

Source: John Bales, EPA Memorandum, 28/12/1978

Not only does the EPA fail to address the issue of dioxin being present in the manufacture of 2,4-D, but they ignore that the original letter refers to numerous types of dioxin. Instead, the EPA concentrate on only one type - TCDD. The EPA also forgets that they detected 2,4,5-T in the unlicensed discharge by Nufarm to Cherry Creek in 1978. Further they at no point address the fact that dioxins are highly persistent and would, in all likelihood, be present in the surrounding soils in 1986.

The original writer, however, does not let the matter rest at this point. He/she writes back, on the 22nd of May, accepting the EPA's assertion that 2,4,5-T has never been produced by Nufarm, unaware that it was detected in their discharge in past years:

"4. The fact that Nufarm has never produced 2,4,5-T has nothing to do with the probability that dioxins are being produced as by-products. The presence of dioxins in the 2,4-D derivatives has been reported in the chemical literature (read my letters 17th Feb.) which is obviously never read by EPA staff. "

"6. The failure of the EPA to justify the Nufarm licence raises serious doubt about the EPA's ability to issue rational licences to the polluting industry." (Letter, 22 May 1986).


The EPA has a history of gross mismanagement of Nufarm's discharges.

Nufarm moved to North Laverton in the 70's. As has been noted above, they were found to have been discharging waste without a licence into the Cherry Creek/Lake system. The discharge had gone on for several years.

In preparing the brief for the prosecution of Nufarm in 1979, the EPA's solicitor made the following comments:

"The Authority ought reasonably to be concerned that a discharge of this nature has been known to and documented by its staff for 5 years before any action is taken. Furthermore there is no record that the company has ever been asked to apply for a licence. (EPA memorandum 17.1.79)

"Since being given the investigation file I have obtained the Authority's file . . relevant to the discharge of waste to water by this company. Surprisingly the file reveals that our investigation branch has documented evidence of this discharge back to July 1973. It appears that at the time an investigation file was prepared, the discharge photographed and analysed found to contain 2,4-D. Then the Senior Inspector Water (B. Stow) discounted action on that investigation by a note dated 8/10/73 concluding "that this is an air matter as the amount of chemical in the liquid waste is so low that pollution would be difficult to ascertain." It apparently did not occur to him that the company needed a licence to discharge liquid waste to the environment. It appears that the company has never been advised that it required a licence." (EPA Memorandum, 17/1/79).

It is appropriate to note here that between the initial finding of a discharge by EPA inspectors in 1973 and the prosecution of Nufarm for the discharge in 1978, the "amount of chemical" in the discharge was now at levels up to 43,000 times above the US Water Quality Criteria. The discharge posed an "obvious threat to aquatic life and wildlife" and the Principle Water Quality Officer anticipated that "a licence application for such discharges would be refused by the Authority". (EPA memorandum, 17/1/79). However Nufarm had never been formally asked to apply for such a licence anyway.

Nufarm Air Licence Breaches (source: Nufarm EPA, FoI, 1986-90)

Number of Breaches
March 1986
April 1986
August 1986
December 1987
February 1988
March 1988
May 1988
April 1988
August 1988
June 1989
October 1989

In addition to the liquid chemical discharges, Nufarm was prosecuted in 1979 for an uncontrolled release of dimethoate insecticide to the atmosphere. The effects were felt two kilometres away, and nine people were admitted to hospital for checks. (EPA Memorandum Sept 79, EPA Letter 8/9/90)

Air discharges from Nufarm at Laverton were also often at illegal levels (Self-monitoring data, Nufarm, EPA, FoI) and at times the monitoring was not carried out in accordance with the licence. A question was tabled in the Victorian parliament in 1981 about the monitoring. It was revealed that in 5 years Nufarm's stack had only had its discharge concentrations tested once by the EPA (Ques. on Notice, 11/11/81)

In December 1982, the Chief Health Surveyor for the Shire of Werribee wrote to the EPA. He acknowledged that Nufarm now appeared to be complying with their licence condictions but that there were continuing problems with the chemical tainting of meat at a nearby abattoir. (DLI June 1978)

The meat samples contained:

Minced Meat 2.5ppm total phenols
Veal leg 2 ppm total phenols

Nufarm's chemcials had first caused complaints due to the contamination of meat as early as 1978. One sample of meat tested at this time "produced an adour on heating and was unpalatable." (DLI, Record of Inspection, 9/6/78).

At another abattoir, 4 years later, chemical tainting of meat is again a problem. Following continued complaints of chemically tainted meat in 1982 and 1983, the Shire Secretary for Werribee told the Minister for Conservation "a further complaint has been received from P.E.M. Nominees Pty Ltd., which is the abattoir experiencing meat taint, that chemical taint has again been experienced...It would be appreciated if some priority could be placed on having this matter fully investigated with a view to eliminating the odours emanating from the premises of Nufarm Chemicals Pty Ltd" (Letter May 1983)

Although the Werribee Council Chief Health Surveyor noted that emissions were within licence limits just prior to December 1982, they were soon to exceed legal limits again. Some of the more recent breaches are on the opposite page.

In April 88, one violation of the licence limits was 27 times the legal concentration at a release rate 30 times above the maximum permissible. June 89 saw Nufarm releasing 2,4-Dichlorophenol at up to 13 times the maximum allowable concentration. (Nufarm self monitoring data, EPA FoI)

Frustration within the solicitors' department of the EPA, continues to exist up to the present day. In 1990, Nufarm was charged with 2 counts of air pollution, one of these due to offensive smell and the other for air pollution harmful or potentially harmful to the health and welfare of human beings. They were also charged with one count of Breach of Licence.The second charge of air pollution was, however, later withdrawn because "at that time, a statement of evidence had not been provided by a medical practitioner employed by the Department of Labour, despite a written request from my (EPA solictors) office in May of this year and repeated telephone calls up to the end of August." (EPA memorandum 30/9/90)

Only in October 1990 is the evidence from the Department of Labour forthcoming and by this time the second air pollution charge (harmful to humans) has been dropped in return for a plea of guilty on the other two charges. The EPA now could not charge Nufarm for causing harm to or potentially harming humans.

Self Monitoring

The EPA relies on a system of self monitoring - a system that is wide open to abuse.

According to the Auditor General, "The EPA's emphasis on a self-monitoring strategy:

*provides minimal assurance that licence holders, as recognised significant dischargers and hence of significant risk to the environment, are being honest; and

*is of minimal effectiveness as a prompt to timely action when prevention or evidence gathering for prosecution is warranted." (Auditor General 1991 p57)

The EPA maintains information from self monitoring in individual licence files, rather than on a centralised system. Such "deficiences in the management information systems" (Auditor General 1991 p57), make it difficult for the EPA - or anyone else to obtain summary information regarding licence and self monitoring compliance.


Early Warning

In May 1990, when Greenpeace conducted its direct action against Nufarm, the Board of Works was apparently unaware that dioxins and furans could be in the discharge. The Board of Works, like the EPA, had never tested the discharge for these chemicals, even though the dioxin content of 2,4-D had been documented in scientific literature. As early as 1972, some types of dioxin were found in 2,4,-D. (Woolson EA 1972; Cochrane, WP et al 1981)

However, even with the apparent lack of expertise in their own departments, they should have been warned about the toxicity of Nufarm's discharge. As has been noted above, in December 1978, the EPA's Principle Water Quality Officer wrote in regard to unlicensed discharges from Nufarm into Cherry Creek, and asked if the discharge had been tested for dioxins.

The MMBW was present when discussions were held into Nufarm's discharge to the drain. The chemical discharges from Nufarm "were considered by the Authority at a meeting on 24/4/79 at which Mr. R Overmars MMBW was present and participated in the discussions." (EPA memo, April 79) They had the opportunity to find out about the dioxin discharge. Regardless of their lack of knowledge of 2,4-D, it was common knowledge that 2,4,5-T contained dioxins.

Trade Waste Agreement Lip Service

The Board throughout its dealings with Nufarm and other industries, has relied on a system of extensive negotiation. In Nufarm's case this resulted in "negotiating" for 14 years without any success in achieving compliance with the law. Nufarm to this date has never been prosecuted by the Board.

Nufarm first broke their Trade Waste Agreement in 1976. The discharge from the company then damaged the actual physical structure of the sewer in 1979 and again in 1984. (Auditor General 1991) Attempts to control the company at this stage failed and, in 1990, the Board of Works admitted that it had knowingly allowed Nufarm to exceed accepted pollution levels since 1983. (Kingsley Culley, The Australian Thursday May 10th 1990)

In 1983, Nufarm's waste discharge licence was terminated because the company did not comply with the licence conditions. (Kingsley Culley, The Age Wednesday 9th May) However, Nufarm was allowed to continue dumping waste into the sewerage system by a letter of agreement first issued in 1983 for six months, then through an extension for a further sis months. After another extension for a year and an indefiite letter allowing the discharge to continue was granted. During this period, they not only broke their old agreement with respect to concentration limits but increased the quantity of effuent being discharged from 155,000 litres to 800,000 litres average by 1990. (Nufarm internal June 1989)

Nufarm's discharge, did not only damage the sewer structure but the chemical releases were also hazardous to the Werribee Sewerage farm. A Nufarm document in 1989 states that:

"The Board's tests have shown that the material currently discharged produces an unacceptably high inhibitory effect on sludge bacteria." Nufarm Internal, June 1989)

The EPA was also informed of the problem:

"The Board wants the concentration reduced urgently, since the levels of dichlorophenol are toxic to the farm" (EPA File Note, 20/9/89, Tony Robinson, Telephone conversation with Mike Taylor, MMBW, emphasis added)

Neither the Board nor Nufarm took action to rectify the problem prior to the Greenpeace action.

Where The System Failed

Since the action against Nufarm, many mismanagement practices within the EPA and MMBW have come to light.


The Board of Works is unable to enforce discharge standards as their tests do not have force of law. In other words should the company that is accused of breaking the law dispute the MMBW results with tests of their own using a different methodology then in some cases they cannot be prosecuted!

"In the longer terms the MMBW Act and By Laws will be modified ... It is intended that like the EPA the Board's test results should have legal standing." (Letter, March 1991 MMBW to VTHC)

In fact, the Board of Work's prosecution record in nothing short of appalling. Since 1985, the Board has terminated Trade Waste Agreements through the issue of a Notice of Breach on only 2 occasions and legal action against wilful offenders has been taken in only 9 cases. (Auditor General 1991, p79)

The Board also fell behind in the monitoring of Trade Waste Agreements. By January 1991, the Board's records showed that 911 premises were over 6 months overdue for inspection. 137 of these had not been inspected for over 2 years. (Auditor General 1991, p75)

In addition mant of these inspections do not involve taking samples of effluent for testing. Out of 10,300 inspections during 1989 and 1990, in only 24% (or 2,500 cases) were samples taken. Between 1988 and 1989 this figure was only 17%. (Auditor General 1991, p61)

Even today, the MMBW discharge agreements are regarded as private commercial information. If a company discharges waste into a stream, a river or the sea, then this discharge is licensed by the EPA. These licences are freely available. However should the same discharge be switched to the sewer then the information becomes private and details of the new agreement cannot be acquired.

The secrecy involved in company operations is unreasonable and does not faciltate any independent assessment of the MMBW operations. Neither does it let Victorians know about the true state of their environment and what is being discharged into it.


The EPA has been woefully lacking in its dealings with waste discharged to the sewer. This is a situation which still has not been rectified. By early 1991 although the EPA had the power to obtain details of all trade waste agreements from both sewerage authorities and occupiers of premises discharging to sewer,:

"it had not seen the need to obtain copies of any trade waste agreements". (Auditor General 1991 p59)

The EPA in Victoria, however, is the body with primary responsibility for the environment. Over 98% of Melbourne's industrial waste is disposed of to sewer. (Trade Waste Review, Final Report, October 1990)

With respect to waste into the sewerage system, the Auditor General of Victoria had this to say on the EPA's application of its responsibility:

"*Without the incorporation of the information on the processes and waste constituents and quantities contained in trade waste agreements and

*without direct investigation, recording and review of promises and processes, assisted by extended abatement notice powers under the Act

The EPA is not fulfilling its protective and preventative audit role over an area of extreme risk to the environment, that of industrial waste." (Auditor General, 1991, p59-60)


Nufarm were, in July 1990, given a licence by the Board of Works to pollute. The levels and quantities of chemicals that they were allowed to discharge were substantially increased.

The decisions behind the setting of Nufarm's discharge levels are highly dubious.

Dioxins are not a natural compound and accumulate in the food chain. (Dept. of Conservation and Environment Press Release 3/6/90) Apparent ignorance of this basic principle of bioaccumulation seems to have led the authorities to set a legal limit for Nufarm's dioxin discharge at "the maximum amount of dioxin allowed in fish for human consumption" (Mr Crabb, Environment Minister, The Sun, July 1990). The effects of bioaccumulation mean that direct comparison between fish and effluent discharge concentrations cannot be made.

After May 1990, it could have reasonanbly been expected that Nufarm would not breach the significantly less stringent new agreement. Nufarm, however, have breached this new agreement several times.

25th June 1990: Notice of Breach issued concerning three pH excursions on June 20th.

12th July 1990 Notice of Breach issued concerning high anaerobic inhibition result on the 8th of July. Nufarm was "unable" to work out what caused this breach.

28th Nov. 1990: Nufarm "accidently" spilt chlorophenols into the sewerage system for 20 minutes. Chlorophenol concentration exceeded acceptance standards by up to 15%. (Letter MMBW to VTHC, March 1991)


  Old Trade Waste Agreement New Trade Waste
Quantity of Waste Nufarm Allowed to Discharge per Day (Litres) 155,000 1,000,000
Chlorophenol concentration (ppm)

25 average

50 average

142 (as mono clphenol)

250 (as tri clphenol)

333 (as tri clphenol)

Dioxins and furans 2378-TCDF (ppt)

2378-TCDD (ppt)


Not monitored



No Limit



In a press release dated the 21st of June 1990, the MMBW stated that:-

"...the sampled analysed showed no trace of the highly toxic dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD. This compares with observed levels in meat overseas of 0.18 parts per trillion (ppt)

Greenpeace obtained the MMBW's data. Close examination shows that the real situation is that:

Two of the samples contain 2,3,7,8-TCDD at 0.4ppt. The levels in Werribee Cattle are clearly higher than the MMBW's quoted reference standard.

In addition, the MMBW claim that "the tests were carried out to levels of detection to 0.05 parts per trillion and the results clearly showed there was no human health risk present in the cattle at Werribee".

The MMBW data actually shows that the detection level for 2,3,7,8-TCDD was 4 to 15 times higher than that claimed in their press release.

In a press release dated the 3rd of July, the Victorian Department of Conservation and the Environment states that "Results from soil taken from paddocks irrigated with sedimented sewerage show 0.3ppt 2,3,7,8-TCDD which compares with an observed level of 9.4ppt by the Department of the Environment - London"

The reference to 9.4ppt is a misquote. The actual British figure of 9.4ppt is an average sum of all dioxins and furans in British soil; the average for 2,3,7,8-TCDD in British soil is less than 0.5ppt. Werribee soil contains higher levels of dioxins and furans. The level for 2,3,7,8-TCDD is in fact 0.78ppt (average) at Werribee.


During Nufarm's time of operation at Fawkner, the council received what was later described by the Chief Health Officer as a "constant stream of complaints" by residents of foul odours and incessant noise at night preventing sleep. The EPA also received many complaints.

1965: Mr John Minette, of McBryde St., too up a petition amongst his neighbours to protest about the dreadful stench they had to endure coming from Nufarm and the death of flowers and shrubs in the street. (Herald 8/12/67)

Dec. 1967: Twenty families left their homes at four in the morning when fumes became "too much" for them. During the same incident, the milkman's horse bolted from the smell. The cause, according to "The Herald", was an overheated "furnace containing a weed-killer mixture". (Herald 8/12/67)

Feb. 1969: Nufarm was convicted of an offence against Section 40 of the Health Act, the "nuisance section". (Letter 27/7/73)

May 71: Nufarm was convicted on 6 counts of discharging fumes, vapours, gases and waste liquid. During the same court case, the firm's Managing Director was found guilty of three charges of impeding, opposing and obstructing the Broadmeadows Health Officer in his duty, and the Technical Manager was convicted of a similar charge. (Summary of Prosecutions, Broadmeadows City Council)

Feb. 72: The Broadmeadows Council brought an appeal to the Supreme Court on charges dismissed at the previous court case and won. Nufarm was convicted of using McBryde St. "for the purpose of an offensive industry". The local residents, some of whom had resorted to protest meetings and midnight demonstrations outside the factory, saw an end to an eight year battle with the firm in sight. Nufarm's lawyer made a promise that the factory would move as soon as possible. Almost two years later, production continued virtually 24 hours a day. (Supreme Court records. "Battling Sylvia wins the day" Article not identified.)

July 73: Solicitors acting for the City of Broadmeadows, wrote to the EPA to determine if Nufarm was operating with a licence. If so, they assumed that given the evidence of residents on their current activities, they must be breaching the terms of that licence. (Letter, 27/7/73)

Aug 73: The EPA replied that the company was "exempt from licencing by virtue of the number of employees and the date when the factory was first established." (EPA complaint form no. 996)

Aug 73: The Town Clerk asked the EPA for help again. (Letter, 21/8/73)

Aug 73: The Hon. J.M. Tripovich, MLC, complained to the EPA that Nufarm was not complying with government orders. (Letter, 23/8/73)

Sep 73: The Secretary to the Premier's Dept. wrote to the EPA and the Director of Conservation requesting urgent responses to the complaints by a McBryde St. resident. She had pointed out that despite visits by the EPA, nothing had been done. Further, she claimed that the "man who comes seems to treat us as though we don't know what we're talking about." (Letters, 10/9/73, 6/9/73 and resident's letter of complaint)

Sep 73: J.M. Tripovich lodged a complaint with the EPA on behalf of the residents of Broadmeadows. The description of the complaint reads as "Offences to residents of Broadmeadows from factory manufacturing noxious products - particularly at night." (EPA Complaint form, complaint No. 1233)

Nov 73: The Town Clerk wrote to the EPA again, pointing out that complaints were continuing about the "obnoxious odours." (Letter 13/11/73)

Nov 73: The Town Clerk lodged a complaint with the EPA, on behalf of residents who were still complaining about Nufarm to the council. (EPA Complaint No 1867)

Nov 73: Mr Tripovich wrote to the EPA again. He also lodged another complaint on behalf of the residents. (Letter, 26/11/73, EPA Complaint No. 1935)

Nov 73: For years, residents had complained that they could not keep plants alive in their gardens. Those who had resorted to plastic flowers found that they quickly lost their colour. A complaint of further plant damage was verified by an EPA inspector. A Nufarm employee surmised that the likely cause was the production of 2,4,5-T (EPA Inspection Report, 29/11/73, Complaint No. 1839)

Apr 74: The same resident who had resorted to the Premier's Dept., lodged a complaint with the EPA. She had a letter from the secretary of the department, promising the plant's closure by the 31st of March. The EPA officer who visited Nufarm in response, concluded that the company "at the most could only stop at the Fawkner premises for a few months. Because of this action by the EPA is not necessary." Inspection Report, Complaint No.3357)

The locals' and Shire's allegations of pollution to the environment were finally vindicated by the 1990 sample studies of soils which established the Fawkner plant as possibly one of the worst dioxin contaminated sites in the world (with levels of 2,3,7,8-TCDD found at 250ppb). To establish the full health consequences to residents would require a comprehensive study of all those who had lived in the area since 1963. The prohibitive nature of such a study means the government will probably never be done. (Health Dept. spokesperson, quoted in The Sun, 13/6/90)

Nufarm Operations in North Laverton

Sep. 73: The Werribee Council passed a resolution prohibiting the manufacture of dichlorophenol due to a pollution incident. There were allegations of contamination to meat in a nearby abottoir as a result of the release of air pollution. (EPA report, Undated, File 40)

July 73: A discharge of waste to an open drain was recorded. (EPA Letter, from solicitor accompanying investigation file, 17/1/78)

Oct. 73: The Senior Inspector Water, B. Stow, discontinued action on the pollution of the drain. Despite the fact that the waste had been analysed and found to contain 2,4,-D, Stow concluded that "this is an air matter as the amount of chemical in the liquid waste is so low that pollution would be difficult to ascertain." (EPA Memo 17/1/78)

Dec 73: Following a complaint that a "foul liquid" was being discharged from the factory to an open drain, an EPA inspection noted "bad housekeeping". The inspector verified that a stream of dark liquid with a strong odour was flowing in the drain. Inspection inside the factory revelaed that a discharge from a scrubber used in Dichlorphenol manufacture, together with the "dark and odorous liquid" from a small pit, would overflow into the stormwater drain and from there to the open drain. At the time, workmen were carrying out drainage works on the industrial waste pit and it was "problematic whether leaks from the pit could have caused pollution to the ground water in the area." There is no reference in this report to the fact that the discharge was not an isolated incident, despite the same officer being involved in previous investigations. (EPA Record of Inspection, 6/12/73)

June 78: Nufarm was identifed as the source of odours which had been detected at "considerable distances" from the factory. They were alleged to have caused the contamination by phenols of a large shipment of meat from Samson's Meat Works. (EPA Memorandum 7/6/78)

June 78: Members of various state and local Health Departments investigated the claims of meat contamination by Nufarm. In the process, samples were taken from the stormwater drain, which was carrying some surface water from the Nufarm premises and flowing past the meat chilling and boning room used by Samson's Meat Co. Meat samples were also taken and all revealed the presence of phenols at high levels. An inspection of the Nufarm plant revealed that the settling tank had leaked, producing pools of strongly phenolic-smelling brown water and that there were hundreds of drums, without lids, containing the chemical mix awaiting final formulation for sale as 2,4-D and that these produced a strong odour. The inspectors came to the following conclusions; that contaminated soil and water should be removed from around the plant and adequate maintenance be carried out to ensure that the problem did not recur. In the meantime, Samson's Meat had to cease production at that site. (DLI Record of Inspection, 9/6/78)

July 78: Nufarm released a cloud of Dimethoate due to an overheating problem. The effects were felt 2 kilometres away, and nine people were admitted to Western General Hospital for checks. Damage to the health of firemen was not admissable evidence in the eventual court case as they were affected inside the factory (EPA Memorandum, 29/9/79)

Aug 78: A spill of caustic chlorine occurred whilst filling a tank, and formed pools inside and outside the premises. (EPA memo. solicitor's letter accompanying investigation file 17/1/79)

Sep. 78: Further samples taken from the drain revealed the presence of the same chemicals and that the company had not acted to stop its pollution. (EPA memorandum, 17/1/79)

Nov 78: The drain was inspected again and a discharge of an orange/red coloured liquid discovered, which was found to contain 2,4-D, 2,4,6-Trichlorophenol and Pentachlorophenol. (EPA Memo 17/1/79)

Dec 78: The EPA's Principle Water Quality Officer tested samples from Nufarm's waste, and detected levels of 2,4,-D up to 43,000 times the maximum concentrations recommended by the US EPA. He further advised that "The pesticides detected are comparitively stable in aquatic environments, and are accumulated in the food chains. They can cause death or otherwise affect the reproduction or survival of aquatic species and wildlife." He assumed that for those reasons, a licence to Nufarm to discharge to water would be refused. He also suggested that the waste be tested for dioxins. (Memorandum 28/12/78)

Jan 79: A solicitor for the EPA, while working on an alleged breach of the Act by Nufarm, obtained the Authority's file on Nufarm's discharge of waste to water. He was surprised to discover that the EPA's knowledge of the discharge under investigation (of 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, 2,4 Dichlorophenol, 2,4,6 Trichlorphenol) went back to July 73. Commenting on the inspector's handling of the case, he said, "It apparently did not occur to him that the company needed a licence to discharge liquid waste to the environment. It appears that the company has never been advised that it needed a licence." On Nufarm itself, he said, "The explantation offered by the company for this discharge appears unacceptable and the fact that it occurred over the period of one month reveals an unsatisfactory effort on the part of the company." The solicitor suspected that the discharge had "existed since the EPA came into existence." At any rate, he felt that "The authority ought reasonably to be concerned that a discharge of this nature had been known to and documented by its staff for 5 years before any action was taken." (EPA Memorandum, 17/1/79)

Jan 79: The EPA acted to stop the pollution of land and water by 2,4,-D and 2,4,5-T through the issue of a Notice of Contravention. Nufarm would be liable to a $2000 fine per day that unlicenced discharge continued. (EPA Letter, 8/9/80 Ref 60-2-79)

Feb 79: An EPA visit to Nufarm "revealed inadequacies in housekeeping and the major problem of direct discharge to stormwater was discussed." Subsequently, the stormwater drain was blocked off and all stormwater redirected to the company's water treatment plant. [ibid]

Feb 79: An overflow from the blocked stormwater drain occurred off the premises. (EPA Letter 8/9/80)

Feb 79: Nufarm was prosecuted for the dimethoate release. $500 fine; $250 costs (EPA Letter 8/9/90)

Mar 79: Nufarm was convicted on 5 charges of pollution to Cherry Creek. In his brief for the case, the Senior Inspector for the EPA noted that "Nufarm appears loathe to take action to prevent further discharge." (EPA Letter 8/9/90)

Mar 79: Mr Doug Rathbone, Nufarm general manager, issued a prepared statement - "The company has been at its present site for the past six years, and, during that time, has not caused damage to the environment, or a health risk to the people of the area." (Truth 31/3/79)

Aug 79: Coloured pools of liquid lying outside the premises were investigated. They were thought to have been the result if leaching from the soil from past discharges. Testing on samples taken "indicated a more comprehensive survey was needed." (Letter 8/9/79)

Jul 80: A declaration signed by an employee of Nufarm, listed what he claimed as the dangers to workers at the Nufarm plant. They included: the room for mixing powder chemicals did not have adequate ventilation; it was common for the powders to enter the atmosphere of the room; gloves were available for handling the drums, but the pressures to work quickly and the awkwardness of the gloves, particularly when the drums were slippery, meant that workers usually took them off; although gloves were worn when handling monochloracetic acid, they were of such a design that the acid would enter them; when DMA was handled, it gave off strong fumes and inhalation was unavoidable, despite warnings that DMA should not be inhaled; DCP entered the atmosphere of the workplace and came into contact with worker's hands during processing; the doors of the herbicide plant were kept closed to prevent fumes escaping, but inside, the atmosphere was frequently cloudy, even to the point of being impossible to see through; the factory environment in general was untidy and it was common for pools of acid to lie on the herbicide plant floor; the safety guards from the slight glasses of the sulphuric acid containers had been removed and empty chemical containers, involving residues of such chemicals as trifloralin and monochloracetic acid, were stored in the dumpmaster from which vapours and liqud waste escaped. He also claimed that at one time, approximately 1,300 litres of soiled 2,4,5-T were discharged to the drains of the factor and to the effluent pit (Declaration 11/7/80)

Jul 80: The employee concerned resigned from Nufarm "because of concern to the risks to my health from the plant." (Declaration 6/8/80)

Aug 80: Nufarm threatened a defamation suit against the Sunshine - Western Suburbs Advocate. As a result, the latter suspended publication of an article based on the allegations by the above-mentioned employee, those of Ken Coghill, MLA, who had visited the plant to confirm what he could of the worker's claims, information gained through EPA files and subsequent investigations by the newspaper. (Advocate article 10/12/80)

Aug 80: The Member for Werribbee, Ken Coghill, wrote to the Minister for Conservation pointing out Nufarm's "alarming and irresponsible" pollution record. He also outlined concerns with the inadequacy of EPA monitoring of the factory's discharges, saying, "Of particular concern is the Environment Protection Authority's inability to properly police pollution by the factory." (Letter 12/8/80)

Nov 80: EPA Inspectors noticed a "plume" from the main herbicide scrubber. (Letter from Nufarm 2/12/80)

Dec 80: The Advocate, having gained the protection of parliamentary privilege, ran the story originally intended for publication in August. The article outlined the dangers alleged in the declaration made in July and those included in a further statement, namely that all parts of the DCP plant were corroded and needed replacing and that chlorine continually leaked from the chloromat plant. A second article in the same issue, noted that Dr Coghill had told parliament "that allegations about the state of the powder room in which the controversial herbicide, 2,4,5-T was manufactured were similar to his own observations." (Advocate Article 10/12/80)

Nov 81: Questions were tabled in parliament concerning Nufarm's pollution record. In his answers, the Minister for Conservation revealed that only one stack test for air emissions had been carried out in the last five years. (Questions on Notice, 11/11/81).

Apr 82: When Dow chemicals proposed a takeover of Nufarm, the company felt it timely to employ a P.R. firm. In a letter to the Minister for Economic Development, the latter claimed that "Despite some virulent and persistent criticism to the contrary, Nufarm has a very good environmental record in the Laverton area" (Letter, 19/4/82, International Public Relations)

May 82: An EPA inspection of the paddock revealed large areas devoid of vegetation, from which it was inferred that runoff of water contaminated by herbicides was occurring. Also, the inspector noted pools of amber/yellow coloured liquid, apparently hydrochloric acid, and large pools of a black liquid "typical in appearance to the discharge of chlorinated phenols which has caused problems in the past." (EPA Letter 26/4/82)

Sep 82: Nufarm was attacked in an address by the then Shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, R.J.Hawke. "Another company which has been let off very lightly is one well known to you. I refer to Nufarm Chemicals at Laverton, Victoria...In early 1979, Nufarm was fined a total of $3000 on six charges of illegal discharge of waste. The senior EPA officials who investigated one of the incidents, an uncontrolled release of dimethoate insecticide into the air at 3am on 11 July 1978, were in no doubt about the problems caused by this incident. Nor were the workers at a nearby factory who had to be taken to hospital for observation and treatment of a number of symptoms." He mentions Clyde Holding's efforts to unravel the implications of that incident in a 17 part question to the then Health Minister, Michael MacKellar. In reply, "The buck was passed to the Victorian Government" despite the allegations involved of contamination to meat at a nearby processing plant. He goes on to add that "this matter has been drawn to the attention of the Royal Commission into the meat industry. It is to be hoped that the Commission's investigation will be more fruitful than was Holding's." He also alleges that the owner of a valuable racehorse which died following the release of the insecticide gas, had since received "a substantial, undisclosed, out-of-court settlement of his compensation claim against Nufarm." (Address to the 18th National Convention of the Agricultural Chemicals Assocation of Australia, 13/9/82)

Dec 82: The Chief Health Surveyor for the Shire of Werribee wrote to the EPA about the continuing problem experienced by a nearby abattoir of chemical taint to meat. He pointed out that, although emissions from licenced discharge points had recently been within licence limits, other licence requirements were not being met. And, "other phenolic odour emissions also occur from the plant from sources which do not require licencing, viz, open/leaking drums of D.C.P. acid, the tile area...roof ventilating ridges, open doors of the herbicide building." (Letter 17/12/82)

Apr 83: A dense cloud of hydrochloric acid mist issued from NuFarm and persisted for 15-20 minutes. Nearby workers suffered nausea, headache, dryness of the mouth, sore eyes and dizziness for several hours and one person was held for observation at Western General Hospital until late that night (EPA Prosecution Brief 28/2/84)

May 83: The Shire Secretary wrote to the Minister for Conservation concerning the abattoir's problem with contaminated meat, saying that "It would be appreciated if some priority could be placed on having this matter fully investigated with a view to eliminating odours emanating from the premises of Nufarm Chemicals Pty Ltd (Letter 30/5/83)

Aug 83: The Shire of Werribee conducted their own investigations of Nufarm and concluded that "odour control equipment or practises are inadequate at the Nufarm Plant and the Authority is ineffective in ensuring that air pollution from the Nufarm plant is controlled." The shire informed the EPA that they had received further complaints about "tainted meat". (Letter, 30/5/83)

Dec 83: An EPA inspection noted pools of yellow liquid around one of the scrubbers smelling strongly of 2,4-D, and surmised that odours from the factory causing complaints could be "fugitive emissions" from those. (EPA Report on stack emissions 6/12/83)

May 84: Nufarm was convicted for the vapour cloud released in April the previous year. They received a $500 good behaviour bond and were instructed to pay $1500 into the court's poor box. (Letter 1/6/84 from Solicitor to the EPA to Chief occupational Health Officer)

Sep 84: The observation of a considerable number of dead seagulls, alerted the EPA to the contamination of the Werribee tip by Nufarm. As a result of the investigation, it was discovered that Nufarm dumped its activated carbon sludge, which contains phenols and other residues, at the tip at the rate of approximately twenty-four 200 litre drums per year. An interesting feature of this material is that, given the right conditions, it is capable of spontaneous combustion. As such, it is prohibited from Municipal landfills. Nufarm argued in defiance of this law that the amount of phenols and copper salts in the sludge were negligible. In addition, they used the Sunshine Tip for packaging contaminated by chemical residues, another practise specifically prohibited by law. (EPA Report, 13/9/94)

Feb 88: Nufarm were, and are still, required to collect samples of stack gases for self-monitoring at regular intervals each day. The limit of 2,4-DCP for licence compliance was often exceeded. The following is in no way a complete history as only a few of the more excessive breaches have been included. We are also limited in what we know of the true extent of these breaches by what was only a partial release of data through a Freedom of Information request. During this month, there were 37 breaches of the licence. (Nufarm self-monitoring data)

Mar 88: The monitoring data reveals 137 excursions beyond the licence limit.

May 88: 10 further breaches were recorded.

April 88: That month the tally of breaches hit 56, the most alarming being 27 times the limit for concentration, released at 30 times the rate.

Feb 89: A spillage occurred from the waste treatment plant. (Letter 17/5/89) from Manager, Health and Environmental Services, to Nufarm)

May 89: The Werribee council submitted a list of requests for a clean-up of the Nufarm site. They requested details of the company's Occupational Health and Safety Programme and expressed concern "with the lack of adequate housekeeping." They also objected to the habit of storing drums of chemicals along the boundaries of the property without adequate safety measures. (Letter 17/5/89)

June 89: Two excursions beyond the limit for 2,4-DCP were recorded; one at 13 times the limit, and one at 10 times.

July 89: An EPA file note quoted examples of bad housekeeping observed during an inspection; the HC1 neutralisation "birdbath" caused odour and particulated; open drums which had contained chlorophenols and isocyanates were stored in a non-impervious area with the possibility of off-site discharge; old equipment, likely to be contaminated, was stored in a "junkyard" between two plants, as Nufarm didn't want to get rid of potentially valuable alloys; two skips full of contaminated soils were being stored on site as Nufarm had found no way to dispose of them (EPA file note, 27/7/89)

Aug 89: Nufarm released a cloud of gases including phenols and chlorinated phenols. Residents of Williamstown suffered from the nauseating stench and many experienced the irritation to nose, throat and eyes and respiratory difficulty consistent with exposure to these gases. (EPA statements by residents)

Sep 89: The MMBW note that the consistent breaches of licence by Nufarm had lead to dichlorophenol levels so high that they were toxic to the farm. A representative of the Board is quoted as saying that "the concentration must be reduced urgently". In addition, an EPA file note revealed that "...Mike Taylor (MMBW) has just found out that Nufarm's whole site including the roof is going to sewer. He isn't happy." (EPA File note 20/9/89)

May 90: The EPA confirmed that chlorinated phenol levels were exceptionally high in Nufarm's trade waste to sewer and that dioxins and furans were present. The highly toxic 2,3,7,8-TCDF was present at a level higher than that detected by Greenpeace earlier in the month. (Age 11/5/90)

Jun 90: A notice of a breach of the trade-waste licence was issued concerning pH levels. (Letter March 1991, MMBW to VTHC)

Jul 90: A Notice of Breach was issued for an illegal discharge to sewer which was causing high anaerobic inhibition. (Letter March 1991, MMBW to VTHC)

Oct 90: Nufarm was prosecuted for the pollution incident of August '89. They were made to pay a total of $12,000 in fines and $750 costs. EPA and Department of Labour lethargy had lead to the charges relating to potential harm to health and welfare of human beings dropped. (EPA Memorandum, 17/10/90).

Nov 90: Nufarm "accidently" spilt chlorophenols into the sewerage system for 20 minutes. (Letter March 1991, MMBW to VTHC).


Production began at Nufarm's Fawkner site in the late 1950's. (Fawkner Site Assessment, 8/11/90). They made 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T and DDT and a variety of other products. (Fawkner Site Assessment, 8/11/90). During Nufarm's time of operation at Fawkner, the residents' problems continued unabated for at least 8 years. (See Nufarm's Operations in Fawkner). From the time that the EPA became involved, until the plant's relocation to Laverton, the EPA never prosecuted.

Further, their responses to the overwhelming number of complaints by residents, local council and Members of the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council often tended towards a defence of Nufarm. One such example concerns the Secretary of the EPA's reply to the Minister for Conservation regarding the emission of odours. The secretary refers to an inspection - the only one made at night when most of the odour complaints occurred - and says that "the slight odours that were detected were confined within the boundaries of the factory." Whereas the actual report concludes that "if operations were not strictly controlled and unfavourable weather conditions prevailed, the odour could be a nuisance." (EPA Inspection report, 23/8/73; EPA Letter, 9/11/73)

In the final stages of the plant's operation, its imminent relocation to Laverton was used as an excuse to inaction. (EPA Inspection report, Complaint No. 3357) This meant only the relocation of the same problems to another community and the abuse of new channels for the disposal of toxic waste.

In early 1990, the EPA tested the Fawkner site for chemical contamination and found nothing, although they claim that further testing was intended. (The Age 29/5/90) Following this, the local council began the process of rezoning the land as residential. (Notice Papers; City of Broadmeadows, Council Meeting 7/5/90)

Te true legacy of Nufarm's pollution was discovered in May 1990. It was found that the chlorophenol levels were up to a quarter of a million times the EPA interim notification criteria fr contaminated soils. Dioxins were present at up to 255 times the US level requiring action for decontamination. (Fawkner Site Assessment, 8/11/90)


Dioxins and furans have become some of the most controversial chemicals of modern society. Dioxin in particular has been labelled the most toxic chemical ever produced by man.


The term "dioxins" usually refers to a whole chemical family with 75 individual members, which more correctly should be termed chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins. The most toxic member of this family is 2,3,7,8-tetra-chlorinated-dibenzo-p-dioxin, often abbreviated as 2,3,7,8-TCDD.

Often, the term "dioxins" also includes a closely related chemical family called chlorinated dibenzofurans. The most toxic among the 135 known furans is 2,3,7,8-tetra-chloro-dibenzo-furan (TCDF), which is one tenth as toxic as the corresponding dioxin TCDD. Of the 210 dioxins and furans, seventeen are extremely toxic to mammals. The other types of dioxins and furans may also be toxic to other forms of life. (see below) The toxicity of the various dioxins and furans are ranked by comparing them to 2,3,7,8-TCDD via dioxin and furan toxic equivalence Factors (TEFs). In addition, some PCBs (PCBs are used in electrical transformers) act to all intents and purposes like dioxins, compounding the risks posed in the environment by dioxins and furans. Some types of PCBs are flat and act in the body just like dioxins. (Silbergeld E 1989; Webster T 1990

Dioxins and Furan Toxic Equivalent Factors

2378 TCDD 1.0 123478 HxCDD 0.1
2378 TCDF 0.1 123678 HxCDD 0.1
12378 PeCDF 0.05 123789 HxCDD 0.1
23478 PeCDF 0.5 1234678 HpCDF 0.01
12378. PeCDD 0.5 1234789 HpCDF 0.01
123478 HxCDF 0.1 1234678 HpCDD 0.01
123678 HxCDF 0.1 OCDF 0.001
234678 HxCDF 0.1 OCDD 0.001
123789 HxCDF 0.1