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Radioactive Yarra?

also see Bay Dredging page here

Oct 19 2008: EPAs Glowing Bay Reports May Be More Accurate Than First Realised

At the local level, the issue of radionuclides was actually mentioned briefly in the Channel Deepening Project SEES, but you could be forgiven for not noticing it because it is buried in one of the SEES reports (Appendix K of Technical Appendix 36), and nothing was done to investigate it further, despite the fact that it is a mandatory requirement of the National Ocean Disposal Guidelines. This work was funded by the Melbourne Water Corporation, not the Port of Melbourne Corporation. It was part of the 1996 CSIRO Port Phillip Bay Environmental Study that the PoMC chose not to pursue further.

To quote briefly from the report: “In this study these three radionuclides were measured in sediment cores collected from two locations in Port Phillip Bay. The locations were nominated by the Port Phillip Bay study management team. One location was near the centre of Port Phillip Bay and this is called the Mid-Bay site. It is located in the deep central basin which is the final collecting area for catchment input of fine sediment and also endocthonous organic production. The second site was in the northern part of the Bay and is called here the North-Bay site. The sediments in this area tend to show the influence of inputs from the Yarra River.”

“The occurrence of low but measurable concentrations of caesium-137 from the surface to 25 cm depth in the 1995 core indicates that the 1953/1956 boundary, corresponding to the years of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, lies below this depth. The depth of recent mixing in the 1995 core is about 10 cm. The vibracore results for caesium-137 show this radionuclide being detected above 30 cm but not below 40 cm (allowing for about 10 cm being lost on collection).” Since the channel deepening project is intending to deepen the channels by a couple of metres, this work should have been pursued further.

Radioactive Yarra?

Approximate site of radiated site (in yellow). Note close proximity to Yarra River. For almost 20 years industrial research projects which involved the seperation and concentration of radioactive ores were carried out at this site. What quantity of radioactive material made its way into the Yarra River via underground drainage systems during this 20 year period? What amount remains in the sediment of the Yarra? Decontamination works were restricted to within the site perimeter and did not include assessing the nearby Yarra bank or sediments. However a drain which may have led to the river was discovered partly filled with radioactive waste. Almost ten thousand 200-litre drums of radioactive waste were taken from the site, some of it highly contaminated.

Decontamination of Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL property was carried out by ANTSO and TNT ECO Services between 16 July and 17 October 1990. It required the removal of 1300 tonnes of radioactive waste and contaminated soil and items.9710, 4210 x 205 litre drums were transported from CSIRO and ARL properties. The site, apart from underneath buildings 21 and 74, are apparently clear of the known deposits of radioactivity.

Between the 1940's and early 1960's CSIRO carried out at its Lorimer Street Fishermens Bend Property, industrial scale research projects which involved the seperation and concentration of radioactive ores. Substantial deposits of radioactive waste were found buried on site and in some buildings and drainage systems contaminated drainage pipes were crushed from the site). Contamination was also found on the adjacent Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL) property. The extraction, transport and storage of the contaminated material from the CSIRO site commenced in January 1990. The material was transported to Lucas Heights in NSW. The decontamination team started work on the ARL property in July 1990.

Source: Commonwealth of Australia: Department of Community Services and Health. Radioactive Decontamination of the Aeronautical Research Laboratory Lorimer Steet Fishermens Bend. 28 December 1990. Australian Radiation Laboratory.

Projects involving the processing of uranium and thorium ores at the CSIRO property, Fishermens Bend had been undertaken between 1941 and 1965. Survey conducted in 1989 and revealed sources of radiation and contamination from uranium and thorium residues at well-defined locations within or near ten buildings. The levels of potential hazards found are well below the limits of occupational exposure of radiation workers and are comparable to levels of radiation associated with some consumer products such as smoke detectors and gas mantles". "During the period 1941 to 1965 pilot and laboratory scale projects, involving cerium, uranium and thorium extracted from ores was carried out by the CSIRO at the Fishermens Bend Property. These projects involved crushing, grinding, sieving and complex chemical operations... indicates that tonnes of ore from mineral sand mines and uranium mines (e.g. Radium Hill) may have been delivered to the site.

p15 "Contaminated material washed down the stormwater drains to the north of the car park is diluted and dispersed by the stormwater system. However the pattern of dispersal and dilution factors could not be determined.

Source: Australian Nuclear Science of Technology Organisation. Radiation Survey of the CSIRO Applied Organic Chemistry Division Lorimer Street, Fishermens Bend, Melbourne.

Radioactive River? Major environment groups call for a halt to Yarra dredging

Press conference today: 1.30 PM Thursday 24th July

Outside Port Education Centre 343 – 383 Lorimer St. Port Melbourne

Revelations that radioactive waste may have been entering the Yarra River for decades has prompted some of Victoria’s major environment groups* to support the call for Premier Brumby and the EPA to immediately halt Yarra dredging until an investigation has been completed.

Harry van Moorst, spokesperson for WREC says "Dredging should stop immediately until there can be a guarantee of no human health or biodiversity impacts from radioactive materials.”

506 Lorimer Street Port Melbourne, a government owned site, is less than 100 metres from the Yarra River. From the 1940s to 1960s, Uranium processing and experimental research on other radioactive materials such as partially stabilised Zirconium, Yttrium, Thorium and Hafnium occurred on the site now occupied by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

A 1983 Government Report and recent information confidentially disclosed by an affected worker indicates that a number of former employees at the Lorimer Street site have died from, or are suffering from cancer. The reports reveal that radioactive materials were found buried onsite in an open garden area, a car park, in buildings, and in a drain that probably led to the Yarra.Decontamination works were restricted to within the site perimeter and did not include assessing the nearby Yarra bank or sediments.

Almost ten thousand 200-litre drums of radioactive waste were taken from the site, some of it highly contaminated. Despite direction from the 2005 EES Panel Hearing that historical research of Yarra sediments should be undertaken for ‘hotspots’ and the public raising concerns about radioactive contamination during the 2007 SEES Channel Deepening Inquiry, the Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) has never provided surveys for radioactive contamination of Yarra River sediments.

The 2007 SEES Inquiry Report records that the PoMC declared it had advice from “regulatory authorities and other sources” that surveying for radionuclides (and dioxins/furans) was not necessary. The PoMC did not provide any documentation to support that claim. The Inquiry did not pursue the issue further. Jenny Warfe, spokesperson for Blue Wedges said “Regulatory bodies have avoided surveying for radionuclide in the Yarra sediments despite reports detailing their likely existence”. Ms Warfe went on to say “People have the right to know whether they will be swimming in radioactive waste”.

For background reports and informant contact details: Jenny Warfe Ph 5987 1583 Mob 0405 825 769 Neil Blake Ph 9534 0413 Mob 0409 138 565

*Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA), Friends of the Earth (FoE), Western Region Environment Centre (WREC), Port Phillip Conservation Council and Blue Wedges.