Contamination problem for tunnel

A clean-up notice has been handed to a key Napthine government department, over badly contaminated land in North Fitzroy that lies in the path of the East West Link freeway.

‘‘My community will have to cop it,’’ – Richard Wynne

Contaminated groundwater from the former Fitzroy Gasworks site is in the path of the planned $6 billion-$8 billion freeway tunnel. Cleaning up the site and groundwater has previously been assessed as costing at least $50 million. The former gas works is at the corner of Smith Street and Alexandra Parade in North Fitzroy.

Town gas was manufactured on-site from coal between 1861 and 1927, after which the site was used by the defence department to produce machine gun carriers and armoured vehicles until the 1960s.

Significant amounts of badly contaminated soil and groundwater remain beneath the site.

The Environment Protection Authority has demanded that Treasury, which is ultimately responsible for the site, complete an initial clean-up plan by the end of May or risk a $300,000 fine.

The authority has also demanded Treasury give it a plan to monitor the contaminated groundwater at the site by November.

The clean-up notice was tabled last week on the first day of planning department hearings into the government’s proposed East West Link, which will join the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to CityLink in Flemington.

Plans for the project show the freeway tunnel running through the southern tip of the former gasworks.

The clean-up notice says that, if the site was redeveloped for residential use, ”the calculated risks for potential future residents is considered to be high and unacceptable” if the land is left untreated.

Chemicals underneath the site that could be released when freeway construction works start include coal tar, ammonia, cyanide and benzene in the soil and groundwater beneath the old gasworks.

Reports for the government’s road authority found that managing the contaminated groundwater and soils should be possible during construction of the tunnel through the area without a costly clean-up of contaminated materials.

A government spokeswoman said dealing with contamination was commonplace on major construction jobs in the inner city.

“The builders of East West Link will have a range of measures in place to ensure any contamination is appropriately dealt with,” she said.

But the local MP for the area, Labor’s Richard Wynne, said the Napthine government’s proposed tunnel would go ’’through one of the most highly contaminated sites in Melbourne’’.

‘‘My community will have to cop it,’’ he said. ‘‘Not only will this dud project cost a lot and not do much, it could put the health of my residents at risk.