Clean-up costs to remove a toxic cocktail of chemicals from Stony Creek have soared past $6 million.
Twelve months after millions of litres of run-off from the August 30, 2018 Tottenham warehouse fire flooded the creek, killing thousands of fish and making the water unsafe for human or animal contact, authorities are finally able to remove contact warnings for the creek water.
Rehabilitation efforts to bring creek water back to within recreational guidelines for human contact have involved removing an Olympic-size swimming pool worth of contaminated sediment.
Melbourne Water pumped 70 million litres of polluted water straight to the sewer immediately after the fire, removing 170 cubic metres of contaminated sediment from the creek.
A further 2500 cubic metres of contaminated sediment has been removed from the creek between the fire site and Paramount Road, the most heavily contaminated stretch of the waterway.
Melbourne Water waterways and land general manager Tim Wood said the authority is working with EPA Victoria to scope further recovery works.
“Contaminated land and waterway specialists have been engaged to determine remaining ‘hotspot’ locations for contaminated sediment in Stony Creek,” he said.
“The results of these investigations will help to inform a program of future desilting and remediation works.”
The state government last year provided $1 million towards the works, but a further $5 million has so far been spent on remediation works between the fire site and Paramount Road alone.
Maribyrnong council director of planning services Nigel Higgins said the council has incurred a number of direct costs along with “considerable” uncosted staff time.
“The majority of our costs will occur once the desilting has taken place further down the creek and we can start replanting, and through the implementation of Stony Creek Future Directions Plan that will be released later this year,” he said.
While nobody has been arrested or charged over the fire, the EPA has flagged charges may be laid by the end of the year over environmental offences.
Melbourne Water’s future works are being guided by the joint Stony Creek Rehabilitation Plan, which will be launched at a community event in Cruickshank Park from 11am-2pm this Sunday.
The launch will include a barbecue, planting activities and will be attended by staff from Maribyrnong council, Melbourne Water and EPA Victoria.