Investigations into ground water contamination in Byron Bay

Byron Shire Council, in partnership with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), is continuing to investigate contamination at Butler Street Reserve.

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 ground water contamination has moved off site.

It comes after per-and-poly fluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances were detected in the ground water beneath Butler Street Reserve and the adjacent Byron Drain (also referred to as Union Drain).

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.

Phil Warner, Manager Assets and Major Projects, said Council and the EPA are dealing with a legacy issue.

“The situation at the moment is that we know there is contamination of ground water 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,” Mr Warner said.

“Council understands this will naturally be a concern for property owners and residents of Byron Bay and we encourage them to read the official EPA advice as a first step.

“The EPA is the lead organisation in this matter and Council is being guided by that organisation,” he said.

The EPA has produced a fact sheet on the Butler Street Reserve PFAS investigations which can be accessed via Council’s website.

“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.

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