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Environmental Service Group

Truegain site remediation

Protecting the community and the environment is the NSW Government’s highest priority.

The Government has stepped in to resolve the long-term environmental issues at the former Truegain waste oil processing site at Rutherford after compulsorily acquiring the land from its bankrupted former owner who failed to clean up the site.

Property and Development NSW’s (PDNSW) Environmental Service Group is leading and managing the clean-up of the property due to its expertise in remediating contaminated land.

Our aim is to ensure the soil and groundwater surrounding the site is clean and doesn’t pose any community or environmental risks.

PDNSW and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) will continue to work together throughout the clean-up and remediation of the site to return it to a safe condition fit for its industrial zoning.

Background

Truegain operated a waste oil processing facility at the site from the late 1990s. In 2016, Hunter Water Corporation suspended Truegain’s trade waste permit and Truegain went into liquidation.

The site was abandoned, with many tanks and storage containers left on site containing large volumes of waste oil or processing by-products. Some included low concentrations of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The NSW EPA issued several penalty and clean-up notices in relation to the site. Details of the NSW EPA’s actions can be found here.

When Truegain’s owner failed to comply with these notices, the NSW EPA stepped in to manage stormwater to prevent pollutants impacting other areas after significant rainfall events. The NSW EPA brought debt recovery proceedings against the former owner to recover the costs incurred in cleaning up the site and in December 2021 the former owner was ordered to pay $1.2 million towards the EPA’s costs.

Next steps

Stage one remediation works have started. This involves removing all above-ground infrastructure, disposing of waste currently stored on site and investigating potential soil and groundwater impacts. These works are expected take 12 months and be completed in 2023.

A detailed remediation action plan for stage two of the works, which may involve soil and groundwater remediation, will be prepared once the further investigations during stage one are complete.

FAQs

What are the pollution impacts?

The above-ground tanks on the site contain waste oil and wastewater, contaminated with mixtures of hydrocarbons and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are man-made chemicals widely used in industrial and consumer products, which take a long time to break down in humans and the environment.

Investigations into PFAS within the Rutherford Industrial Estate found PFAS in varying levels across the Estate, but this is not unexpected given the historic use of PFAS in a variety of industrial operations.

The NSW EPA undertook comprehensive testing for PFAS in the Estate, and in nearby creeks, after a containment system at the former Truegain premises overflowed into nearby Stony Creek in 2018. The results of this testing and further information can be found at the EPA website.

Does the pollution pose a threat to surrounding neighbours and the environment?

Protecting the community and the environment is the NSW Government’s highest priority.

The presence of PFAS on the Truegain site is a result of low concentrations present in waste oils and solvents. These wastes have been held in tanks on site and, where spills have occurred, they have been on sealed or contained areas.

The NSW EPA had previously engaged a contractor to remove contaminated water from the site as needed to prevent the discharge of pollutants to the environment.

Throughout the remediation process the Government will continue to monitor, mitigate and manage the Truegain site, especially during rain events, ensuring the highest protections to the environment and the local community are maintained.

Why can’t the NSW EPA continue to manage pollution from the site?

The NSW EPA stepped in after the site was abandoned by its previous owner to manage and prevent stormwater and pollution escaping into the local waterways.

Now the property has been transferred to the NSW Government, the NSW EPA will continue to provide regulatory oversight to  ensure remediation works meet the required standard and no further pollution occurs.

PDNSW’s Environmental Service Group is now leading and managing the clean-up of the property due to its expertise in remediating contaminated land.

Why has it taken so long for the Government to intervene?

The Government will not remediate privately-owned land to benefit the polluter, so remediation work could not start until the site had been acquired.

This was delayed due to the site owners and stakeholders requesting compensation, which was in excess of the independent valuation for the property.

A compulsory acquisition process has now been completed. Remediation works are now underway.

What will the site be used for once it is remediated?

The Rutherford industrial estate is at the centre of industry in Maitland, and our focus is on remediating this site to make it and the surrounding environment safe, create jobs and stimulate the local economy.

The site’s prime location has access to major transport and freight corridors, and there are opportunities to build on the industries already established here such as fabrication, distribution, and bulky goods.

For further information, please contact us at
community_property@property.nsw.gov.au