Logo

A 4/91 Hoddle St, Robertson NSW 2577
P 1300 789 719
E secretariat@landandgroundwater.com
ACN 151 172 735 ABN 70 240 612 745 IRD 116 017 768

News Room

News Room

The Kevinator - Our Ecoforum 2020 Conference Chair speaks on the awesomness of Darwin!

My descent into Darwin was equal parts terror and exhilaration.  The few “bumps”, as they are now quaintly termed by cool as Buble Captains, I am certain conjured by the sprite breath of a certain “when is the hair coming” leader of the “Free” world. Thankfully, the “terror” was more - forced to...

My descent into Darwin was equal parts terror and exhilaration. 

The few “bumps”, as they are now quaintly termed by cool as Buble Captains, I am certain conjured by the sprite breath of a certain “when is the hair coming” leader of the “Free” world. Thankfully, the “terror” was more - forced to listen to Kenny Gee than spine-tingling witnessing of Sir Anthony Hopkins in that lamb film.  

This all serves of course to characterise the Darwin Ecoforum committee meeting.  Like that watch ad a few moons ago; in the beginning we were miles apart in thought though separated by only a table. Sparked by an offering from the revered former CEO of ALGA, Elisabethe Dank (“Trinity”), now keeping the Mercuri brothers out of trouble at Matrix Drilling, our minds collectively swarmed to a common hive, a hive alive with the sweet promise of an enriching and informing, dare I say, ground-breaking, conference this September. The Ecoforum committee, the ALGA board and the fine peeps of ALGA (FPOA) made themselves known to Darwin on the 10th and 11th February. 

For the committee, the purpose was to experience first-hand, the environmental issues, challenges and opportunities of the great northern city and to reach consensus on the overarching and underlying themes for Ecoforum 2020. The Dank Spark, exploded into a new way of thinking about conference content and I am giddy at the prospect of informing on this in weeks to come. 

The inimitable Ian Brookman of Ventia and forthcoming GQ cover, won the committee popular vote for the title of the conference and it will hint at the direction many would like Ecoforum and ALGA to take.  Eyes peeled for the revealing of that in coming issues of the splendidly revamped ALGA newsletter. The conference will focus on solving problems, a theme championed and lucidly articulated by committee and board member, Dr. Peter Nadebaum of GHD. The big issues of our time including global contamination and pollution and the challenges to our industry from the changing climate will envelope proceedings.

Suffice to say I left the Ecoforum committee meeting buoyed by the creative winds dispelling mediocrity and banishing “same old same old”.

Huge thanks as always to Shardai Eaton, the one who truly brings Ecoforum into being, for organising, corralling, minuting, oodles of positivity and finding a super venue, resort-like, one might say.

Paul Turyn of SLR was the consummate host for this trip leading the committee through six contaminated sites, some of which may be site tours.  Asbestos is a major issue in Darwin with Cyclone Tracey causing a great deal of mess and less than savoury earth cleansers (to perhaps misquote Kate Hughes), finding novel resting places and saving the bother of searching for an actual disposal facility. Bruce Croucher of New Zealand EPA knows asbestos and his insight to that specific issue and his wide-ranging ideas inject a unique perspective for forming of the conference. One of the visited sites may be the subject for the Legacy Project, an exciting special addition to the conference inspired and spearheaded by sometimes Kafelonian Jon Miller of The Remediation Group.   

The trip culminated in a forum event hosted by the omnipresent Paul Turyn with an excellent update on PFAS analytical methods by Dr. Annette Nolan of Ramboll and an engaging summary of the key points of stakeholder management by Dr. Sarah Richards of Coffey (see the ALGA library for the presentations).  The latter peppered with real life examples spanning industry worst to best practice. FPOA Branch and Operations Manager, Karoline Willis provided connection to the Darwin branch committee and a shading umbrella when the searing sun threatened to discolour a fragile committee member. A member whose man credentials were shattered when the wind sent it all a bit Mary Poppins.

The weather in Darwin is majestic, proper weather, and if the planning hints at the event to come we are in for a scorcher.   

The call for abstracts is imminent, in fact by publication they may be open for submission.. I encourage you to contribute an abstract or two (or more) to get on board with this, ALGA's most awesomessest event yet! 

P.S. I feel compelled to inform of the absence of Duck Pancakes during the meeting.

Kevin Simpson

Director – Remediation (Australia)| Principal Engineer
EHS Support Pty Ltd



Environmental Risk Assessment of PFAS - SETAC

SETAC (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) organised an excellent meeting in August 2019 in Durham North Carolina USA. The meeting was designed to summarise the latest information on the effects and environmental fate of PFAS. The program and abstracts (platform and posters) can be...

SETAC (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) organised an excellent meeting in August 2019 in Durham North Carolina USA. The meeting was designed to summarise the latest information on the effects and environmental fate of PFAS. The program and abstracts (platform and posters) can be found at https://pfas.setac.org/ . If you are a member of SETAC you can access some of the posters and presentations as well as summaries of the breakout sessions at the SETAC website (www.setac.org).

The first half of the meeting was platform sessions where a range of specific experts presented up to date summaries in 5 areas:

  • Environmental sources, chemistry, fate and transport
  • Exposure assessment
  • Ecological toxicity
  • Human health toxicity
  • Risk characterisation

The second half of the conference involved attendees splitting into breakout groups in each of these 5 areas for further discussion, so everyone had opportunity to ask questions and to comment.

There were a few obvious differences between the US and Australia in their experience of PFAS. The US is focused on the impact of PFAS on drinking water supplies as some of their most contaminated sites (manufacturing sites) have impacted on supplies in locations with there are few alternative drinking water sources. In Australia, most affected locations have had alternate sources for drinking water which have been brought online quickly. This means the risk from exposure via drinking water has been managed in most situations and risk assessments here have focused on whether there were residual risks from other exposure pathways, particularly uptake of PFAS into food.

There was much discussion about the toxicology of these chemicals as you might expect. One of the talks outlined how the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) put together their most recent guidance on PFOS and PFOA (published at end of 2018). The expert group working on the assessment for EFSA evaluated many animal studies and more than 200 studies of the effects of these chemicals on people (epidemiological). They decided that there were epidemiological studies that were robust enough to provide sufficient evidence of a range of effects and that these studies were suitable for setting a toxicity reference value. While the critical effect for PFOS used in the final guideline was the impact on serum cholesterol levels, the calculation of the guideline was undertaken for a range of effects including functional impacts on the immune system and birth weight. All effects gave similar values for the guideline, so the effect with the most robust data was used. That guideline value is lower than the Australian guideline.

It was a great conference! The next Focused Topic Meeting SETAC is organising covers non-target analysis for environmental risk assessment (https://nta.setac.org/scope-of-the-meeting/abstract-submission/). This focuses on maximising the use of all of the modern analytical tools to get a better picture of what is present in our environment.


August 2019 report by Therese Manning, EnRiskS

Didn't get to attend the event, but would love to review the presentations? Go to the ALGA online library*

* note the access to all the papers in our online library is a member only benefit, for more information or to join click here



PFAS In New Zealand Current Knowledge & The Steps Forwards

First trans-Tasman workshop on PFAS Research into PFAS contamination and remediation has been extremely active over the last years, in particular in Australia and North America. While New Zealand is working proactively to identify potentially contaminated sites, research activities have been...

First trans-Tasman workshop on PFAS

Research into PFAS contamination and remediation has been extremely active over the last years, in particular in Australia and North America. While New Zealand is working proactively to identify potentially contaminated sites, research activities have been limited up to now. A workshop was organized in September 2019 at the University of Auckland with the aim to facilitate and catalyze trans-Tasman discussions on issues related to PFAS. Participants came from industry, government and research institutions. This brief summarizes the main points discussed and the priorities identified to improve the management of PFAS use and contamination in New Zealand.

What are PFAS?

Poly and per fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) represent a large family (4000+) of man-made chemicals with unique properties. PFAS are film forming, lipid and water repellent, and resistant to biotic and abiotic degradation processes. These properties made PFAS ideal for a range of successful applications since the 1950s including firefighting foams, textiles and paint. The unique properties of PFAS also make them very challenging to manage once they are released into the environment. Many PFAS are bioaccumulative and subject to long range transport (1). Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), a sub-group of PFAS including PFOS and PFOA, are indefinitely persistent in the environment. Many other PFAS can degrade in the environment to form these PFAAs (2). Human exposure occurs mainly through the consumption of contaminated water and food, and current epidemiological studies suggests association with a number of adverse human health effects, including lipid metabolism, immunological markers and birth weight (3). Only a few PFAS are currently restricted by regulation. PFOS and PFOA are the most studied and are now listed under the Stockholm Convention (all uses of PFOS were phased out in NZ but some uses of PFOS remain possible under the Convention).

Global contamination and challenges

  • Analytical challenges: analysis of the PFAAs in complex environmental matrices is relatively advanced, however our ability to detect and quantify most other PFAS remains limited. PFAS most often occur at low concentrations, in unknown and complex mixtures. Analytical sensitivity and accuracy suffer from interfering substances, sample contamination and the lack of suitable analytical standards.
  • Environmental fate and hazard: the complex chemistry of PFAS prevents the use of protocols and models applied for other contaminants. Obtaining empirical data is thus often critical for risk assessment. Toxicity criteria and guideline values have become more available in recent years for some key PFAAs but are lacking for the wider group of PFAS.
  • Remediation approaches: PFAS do not behave like other organic contaminants and approaches validated for other organics cannot be assumed to be effective for PFAS (4). Destroying PFAS is currently commercially done by high temperature methods, which are not economically viable for very large scale application. Methods for removing PFAS from water are effective (e.g. activated carbon, ion exchange and foam fractionation). The solid or liquid waste streams from these treatments cannot generally be disposed of in landfill due to the potential release of PFAS over time and are either stockpiled or destroyed by high temperature methods.

Activities in the region

In Australia, the Department of Defence initiated a comprehensive program to investigate and manage PFAS contamination on and around Defence properties (28 sites). Class actions against The Department of Defence from landholders are undergoing at several sites. Many other sites including airports and fire training grounds are also under investigation. In NZ, the All-of-government initiative (5) was launched in 2018 to create a Governance group comprising senior officials and a Working group comprising technical/communication advisors. The initiative allowed investigations at NZDF and FENZ sites, the development of mitigation actions, and active involvement in the revision of the PFAS NEMP: National Environmental Management Plan produced by the Heads of EPAs of Australia and NZ (6).

Possible sources of PFAS in New Zealand

Typical point sources of PFAS in the environment include industry (PFAS manufacturers and/or users), and sites where intensive firefighting training took place (e.g. military, airport). Industrial sources are believed to be limited in NZ (no PFAS manufacturer in Australia nor NZ), and sites where firefighting training took place are currently being investigated. Landfill leachate and waste water treatment (e.g. discharge of contaminated water, application of contaminated biosolids) are expected to be one of the major point sources of PFAS contamination in NZ but supporting data is currently unavailable. Finally, it would be worthwhile investigating imports from countries still producing and using PFAS in large quantities as some products may contain PFAS (intentionally or not).

The next steps to improve the management of PFAS in NZ

  • Transdisciplinary approaches are necessary to tackle issues related to PFAS and efficient communication strategies involving all stakeholders throughout the entire management chain need to be (re)established.
  • Monitoring to identify the main sources of contamination, including sites where firefighting foam was used or stored, landfill leachate, waste water and biosolids.
  • The full diversity of PFAS chemistry should be better recognised. If possible, monitoring and experimental studies should cover the full spectrum including long and short chain, anionic, cationic and zwitterionic PFAS.
  • Better consideration of local specifics when assessing the risk associated with PFAS. For instance, limited data is currently available on the impact of local soil properties or climate on the fate of PFAS. Similarly, data is very limited on the ecotoxicity and bioaccumulation of PFAS in native species (e.g. fish and avian species) or species that are culturally important (e.g. eels) and may be important sources of PFAS intake through diet.
  • Development of more sustainable remediation and waste treatment strategies that are adapted to the local context and reduce NZ reliance on waste export to tier countries.
  • We recommend a One Health approach in which all the elements of our ecosystems are considered, with a particular attention to key species for NZ ecosystem functioning (e.g. marine mammals, livestock).
  • Fully integrate NZ cultural heritage and values in the management of PFAS use and contamination.

What NZ policy makers can do?

  • Continue restricting the use of PFAS when possible e.g. EPA recent proposed phase-out of PFAS in firefighting foams (7)
  • Develop HAIL (Hazardous Activities and Industries List) guidance related to PFAS (MfE)
  • Improve monitoring e.g. by including PFAS in the 3-Waters and biomonitoring programme (MoH)
  • Support collaborative research with Australia to improve ecological guideline values

Melanie Kah (workshop organizer, University of Auckland, School of Environment) prepared this brief with the support of Nanthi Bolan (University of Newcastle), Karl Bowles (RPS Australia Asia Pacific), Maria Charry (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment), Terry Cooney (Analytica Laboratories), James Corbett (Auckland Council), Bruce Croucher (MfE), Peter Dawson (EPA), Karen Fisher (University of Auckland), Jennifer Gadd (NIWA), Kapish Gobindlal (University of Auckland/EDL), Lisa Graham (AsureQuality), Tim Harwood (Cawthron Institute), Rai Kookana (CSIRO), Davina McNickel (Environment Canterbury Regional Council), Lokesh Padhye (University of Auckland), Andrew Rumsby (PDP), George Slim (Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor), Karen Stockin (Massey University), Louis Tremblay (Cawthron Institute) and Jackie Wright (EnRisks).

References [1] Stockholm Convention http://www.pops.int [2] ITRC PFAS Fact Sheets https://pfas-1.itrcweb.org [3] Knutsen et al. 2018. EFSA Journal 16(12). [4] Ross et al. 2018. Remediation Journal. 28(2):101–26 [5] Ministry for the Environment https://www.mfe.govt.nz [6] HEPA 2018. PFAS National Environmental Management Plan https://www.mfe.govt.nz [7] EPA. 2019. Proposal to amend the Fire Fighting Chemicals Group Standard 2017 https://www.epa.govt.nz



Mine Site Rehabilitation

In the boom and bust industry which is mining, financially preparing for and addressing mine rehabilitation has historically been neglected. New mine rehabilitation reforms seek to remedy this, thereby improving the public image of the industry. In Queensland, mining reform with new legislation...

In the boom and bust industry which is mining, financially preparing for and addressing mine rehabilitation has historically been neglected.

New mine rehabilitation reforms seek to remedy this, thereby improving the public image of the industry. In Queensland, mining reform with new legislation has been implemented to ensure mine rehabilitation is financially accounted for in future mine closures and to assess the risk and future of abandoned mines.

Andrew Grabski (DNRME) discussed the new mining reforms addressing changes to the Mined Land Rehabilitation Policy and the Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Act 2018 with regard to mine closure provisioning. A financial assurance framework has been developed based on 7 discussion papers to manage the financial risk to State and to the holders of environmental authorities. The reforms incorporate a payment requirement to an accumulative fund to be attributed to abandoned mine clean-up. However, if the mine’s corporate risk is too high (e.g. $100, 000 < estimated rehabilitation cost (ERC)) then the mine will be unable to participate in the scheme. Rehabilitation of abandoned mines is currently government funded but through the new financial assurance scheme provisioning will be made for their clean-up. The attitude towards mine rehabilitation has been undergoing reform through the incentivising of mine rehabilitation for commercialisation such as mine repurposing for future uses. For example, the mining of potential metals from abandoned mines.

Only approximately 100-120 mines of the estimated 15,000 abandoned mines in Queensland are considered to require maintenance and rehabilitation. This is because the 15,000 abandoned mine figure is derived including small historic mineral occurrences  that are not considered to be a risk to society or the environment. There is an aim to understand, quantify and prioritise which of the mines are high risk and require the most immediate attention. The risk and prioritisation framework is set to be released for public consultation in February of 2020 and published on the abandoned mines environmental management website in July of 2020.

In recent years, there has been a shift of global opinion towards an ‘anti-mining’ view, due to its significant environmental impact. Changing these views has driven the developments in the mine rehabilitation industry. Stuart Richie (AARC) discussed how regulators require a transparent whole-life mine plan with annual updates and notice of all changes to the mine plan. In response to the poor mine rehabilitation performance of the past, new regulations and regulatory changes have been introduced. For example, the ERC policed by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) and the introduction of the progressive rehabilitation and closure plan (PRCP) regulations, which requires a plan describing and pre-empting continual rehabilitation after five years or less of operation. A transitional authorisation period may be permitted for final voids when appropriate land outcome documentation and notices of insufficiency are present. 

There is a drive towards rehabilitation for alternative land-use futures for mine sites and under the PRCP there is an obligation to show evidence of meeting milestones for such rehabilitation with penalties for non-compliance. Julian Power (Golder Associates) recognised the challenges of rehabilitation in Queensland such as climate, soil quality, legacy sites (erosion and ponding), acid mine drainage, access to appropriate supplies of rock and capping material. He identified how rehabilitation is moving towards geomorphic covers which replicate natural slopes through the utilisation of rip-line technology evolved for soil type variability. PRCPs require the submission of a final landform design utilising such technologies and demonstrating quality control. Such plans also require fate of contaminants and residual contaminant damage plans to prove that the future land use for the site is suitable, safe, stable and does not cause environmental harm. But with adaptations for changing future land uses and climate change it may be challenging to provide long-term designs. Overall, the reforms to mine rehabilitation have been a collaborative effort across departments and their application will be highly advantageous to promote a more balanced perspective of the mining industry.


21 November 2019 report by Lauren Reynolds, WSP

Didn't get to attend the event, but would love to review the presentations? Go to the ALGA online library*

* note the access to all the papers in our online library is a member only benefit, for more information or to join click here



Mulch Ado About Nothing

After several days of wet and cold weather, we were rewarded for giving up our Sunday morning lie in with beautiful warm blue sky day. People began to gather before 11am on the banks of the Wairarapa Stream in the middle of Jellie Park in Christchurch. Hamish from the Conservation Volunteers gave...

After several days of wet and cold weather, we were rewarded for giving up our Sunday morning lie in with beautiful warm blue sky day.

People began to gather before 11am on the banks of the Wairarapa Stream in the middle of Jellie Park in Christchurch. Hamish from the Conservation Volunteers gave us a safety briefing and told us about the work that had been done to improve the stream so far (invasive vegetation and rubbish removal) and the tree planting that had been undertaken by several schools and businesses in the area.

We then all moved to the banks of the stream where members of the Environment Canterbury team who had known Connor Parker well, planted a kowhai tree in his name and said a few words about him.

After the tree planting, Hamish explained what we needed to do – placing hessian sacks provided by Humming bird coffee, around the base of the plants which had previously been planted and then placing bark on top of the sacks. The bark had been provided by a local arborist. So we all put on our gloves and worked hard for the next hour and a half.

The group was split into two groups working on different sections of the stream. We placed sacks and mulch around all of the plants in our sections and managed to reduce the stockpile of mulch by about 90% (there were several sore backs the next day!). We then stopped for a sociable lunch at 1pm.

Everybody enjoyed themselves, even the children, and there were only a few wet feet at the end of the day. Several people even said that we should do something similar next year! A special thank you to ALGA for providing the support for the organisation of this event and for funding the lunch. Also, a big thank you to Davis Ogilvie for providing the gazebo for the day – it was needed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


20 October 2019 report by Cecilia Gately - GHD Limited

Didn't get to attend the event, but would love to review the presentations? Go to the ALGA online library*

* note the access to all the papers in our online library is a member only benefit, for more information or to join click here



ALGA Industry Directory

© Australasian Land & Groundwater Association 2018

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy