Information update: Tottenham (West Footscray) chemical fire site clean up

In November 2019 WorkSafe exercised its statutory powers under the Dangerous Goods Act (1985) to take any necessary action to ensure the safe removal and disposal of dangerous goods from the site of the 2018 chemical fire on Somerville Rd, Tottenham.

The taskforce

WorkSafe Victoria is leading a taskforce that includes the EPA, emergency services, Melbourne Water and local government to oversee the clean-up process.

Who is cleaning up the Tottenham fire site?

WorkSafe has engaged specialist contamination remediation contractor Enviropacific Services Ltd to undertake the clean-up of the fire site. Enviropacific has engaged a number of contractors to undertake specialist work including asbestos removal, demolition, waste removal and treatment.

Environmental services company Prensa is providing independent technical oversight and assurance that the project is carried out in accordance with all relevant regulations.

What is the plan for the clean-up of the site?

The project comprises of several phases:

  • preliminary work including detailed risk assessment and planning
    • site investigation, including sampling and survey activities
      • site establishment , including infrastructure and risk controls
        • asbestos removal
          • demolition
            • waste processing and disposal
              • The WorkSafe-led clean-up project extends to the property boundaries and to the level of the slab of the former structures.

                What stage is the clean-up up to now?

                Detailed site assessments, planning and initial site works including establishing the necessary infrastructure have been completed. Non-dangerous goods waste has been cleared from the perimeter of the site. This includes waste from the demolition of the northern and southern sections of the warehouse structure.

                A large waste triage tent has been constructed and an area established to accept, test and safely store classified dangerous goods waste, ready for transport from site. The first loads of intact drums have been transported to offsite treatment and disposal facilities.

                How long is the clean-up expected to take?

                Due to the complex nature of the clean-up it is expected to take up to two years. WorkSafe is working work closely with Enviropacific to ensure the work is done safely and completed as soon as possible.

                How is the physical work being carried out?

                Contractors are using earthmoving and demolition equipment as well as specialised equipment to remove hazardous and non-hazardous materials. This will be similar to that used in demolition and construction sites, with specific controls for working near hazardous materials and dangerous goods. Precautionary dust and odour suppression measures are in use.

                What fire protection measures are in place?

                WorkSafe, Enviropacific and emergency services are working together to ensure fire measures put in place are fit-for-purpose and suitable for the conditions at the site. A detailed fire safety study determined the size and type of temporary fire protection system installed for the duration of the dangerous goods removal.

                How is asbestos at the site being handled?

                All asbestos will be removed by licensed removalists and checked by an independent hygienist to confirm it has been removed and treated in accordance with Occupational Health and Safety regulations. A comprehensive asbestos removal plan is in place, and monitoring of the air to ensure asbestos fibers are not being released to the atmosphere is ongoing.

                How is run-off being contained at the site?

                Since the commencement of the clean-up, all potentially contaminated stormwater has been captured and treated off-site at a licensed waste facility. As of April 2021 all run-off will continue to be captured and will be treated either on site through the newly installed water treatment plant or off-site to ensure contamination does not enter the nearby Stony Creek.

                What measures are in place for the transportation of hazardous materials or dangerous goods from the site?

                The transfer of hazardous materials and dangerous goods is undertaken by specialist licensed transporters and complies with safety and environmental regulations including the use of placarding and signage.

                All waste removed from the site is tracked to its final destination at facilities appropriately licensed to receive it. The transport and disposal of waste will be checked and verified by WorkSafe’s independent oversight and assurance contractor to confirm that all environmental and safety obligations are met by WorkSafe's contractors.

                The volume of traffic generated by the removal of material from the project site is not expected to impact congestion in the area.

                What plans do you have in place to ensure all work is completed properly?

                A specialist WorkSafe team is overseeing the works undertaken by Enviropacific and its contractors. WorkSafe is also supported by safety and environmental specialist Prensa Pty Ltd who are providing independent technical oversight of the project including regular comprehensive auditing and reporting of the works.