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Byron Shire
December 4, 2023

Groundwater contamination investigated in Byron Bay

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Contamination by per-and-poly fluoroalkyl (PFAS) at Butler Street Reserve is being investigated by both the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Council.

Butler Street Reserve is located on the newly opened bypass, just west of the town’s CBD.

Byron Shire Council staff say the joint investigation began after PFAS was detected in the groundwater beneath Butler Street Reserve and the adjacent Byron Drain (also referred to as Union Drain).

Staff say, ‘PFAS is a group of chemicals that were widely used in some fire-fighting foams and other products including food packaging, non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture, clothing, and shampoo’.

Byron’s Butler Street Reserve. Photo supplied

Landfill till 1970s

‘Butler Street Reserve was an unlicensed landfill used by residents and businesses in Byron Bay for the disposal of rubbish until the mid 1970s.

‘The EPA said it was likely that the PFAS contamination was a result of general household rubbish put into the landfill’.

The next phase of investigation involves surveying and sampling water from 11 registered bores in the vicinity of the Butler Street Reserve to determine whether groundwater contamination has moved offsite.

Manager Assets and Major Projects, Phil Warner, said, ‘We know there is contamination of groundwater at Butler Street Reserve, and we now need to understand if there is contamination beyond Butler Street Reserve, and if there is, what that level is’.

‘Council has written to, and where possible, spoken to residents and owners of the 11 properties, advising them we are going to be testing the water in their bores to see if PFAS is present and finding out if, or how, they use that bore water’, Mr Warner said.

‘While the water sampling will be completed at registered bore locations, advice from the Australian Government, supported by the NSW Government, in relation to PFAS is that finding PFAS in the environment does not mean there is a human health risk.

‘If property owners in the vicinity of Butler Street Reserve have unregistered bores on their property which they would like included in the testing regime, they can contact Council at Major Works’.

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  1. Not suprised. The tip operated there well into the early eighties from memory.
    It wasn’t an informal one. Council ran it.
    There was one right beside Simpsons Creek in Brunswick behind the Bowling Club again into the eighties.
    Right beside the creek.
    All sorts of agricultural chemicals were dumped there too.

  2. Nick is correct, the tip ran into the eighties . It had been open for many years, maybe 20?
    The approx 30 metre high hill the size of a couple of football fields or more is full of unsorted garbage including industrial waste although towards the end of the tips life signs went up warning not to dump industrial waste.
    I dumped a few household loads there over the years and often there wasn’t anyone managing on site so it was free for all.
    When the Tip was closed and grassed over their was some sort of covenant put on the site that stated that no activity should occur there for 30 years which is now passed.
    On tip closure The byron environment centre formed a crown lands trust called the cumbebim wet land sanctuary so as to try to manage the adjoining wetlands and regenerate the sites as best as possible by planting many hundreds of trees and weeding out the invasive species , this has been as successful as possible with the mountain of toxic waste present.
    In reality the only way to restore the whole site is to remove the waste which is leaching some very nasty residues into the Byron Bay water table and waterways including the bay. The leaching will continue and some chemicals which have extremely long half lives will continue to pollute paradise until the bullet is bitten and the mess is dealt with.


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