2018/19: Rutherford Industrial Estate (New South Wales) – PFAS

Rutherford Industrial Estate


62 Kyle St, Rutherford

Investigations into Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ongoing within the Rutherford Industrial Estate. PFAS has found in varying levels and this is not unexpected given the historic use of PFAS in a variety of industrial operations.The EPA undertook testing for PFAS in the Rutherford Industrial Estate, and in nearby creeks, after a containment system at the former Truegain premises overflowed into nearby Stony Creek in 2018. Additionally, other historical sources of PFAS have been identified as part of the EPA’s investigations. The results of this testing can be found in the tables below.

Residents living on properties bordering the creeks in Rutherford should follow the advice below to minimise their exposure to PFAS:

Stony Creek

  • Where chickens and livestock have been watered with or have access to creek water, AVOID consuming eggs, milk and home-slaughtered livestock.

Fishery Creek (downstream of the confluence with Stony Creek) and Wallis Creek (downstream of the confluence with Fishery Creek)

  • Where livestock have been watered with or have access to creek water, AVOID eating home-slaughtered livestock.

General advice

  • Where home produced eggs, milk and livestock have been watered using reticulated (town) water or rainwater, these are safe to consume.
  • Vegetables grown using creek water are safe to consume.


The former Truegain premises, located within the Rutherford Industrial Estate, is a known source of PFAS for the creek system. Initial sampling was undertaken by the EPA after a containment system overflowed into Stony Creek following a heavy rain event in 2018. At that time, the EPA advised residents to avoid waterways downstream of the premises and to avoid drinking water from Stony Creek and Swamp Creek.

The Truegain premises was formerly a waste oil processing company. In February 2016, Hunter Water Corporation (HWC) suspended Truegain’s trade waste permit and physically disconnected the site from the HWC sewerage system due to PFAS found in high concentrations in the trade waste. As a result, the EPA suspended Truegain’s Environment Protection Licence and the company went into liquidation, with the site placed in care and nominal maintenance.

Work to ensure the former Truegain premises is safe for the community and the environment is continuing, with legal notices served on the owner to clean up the site. The owner has engaged a contractor with a mobile treatment plant licence that is treating the water to ensure the site is contained and made safe. The EPA will continue to work with both the former Truegain site owner and Maitland City Council to prevent potential future discharges in the creek system.

National Textile Mill operated within the Rutherford Industrial Estate in the past. PFAS containing chemicals were commonly used to treat fabrics. The current owner of the former textile site (Cleanaway) is voluntarily undertaking an investigation to establish the extent of any PFAS contamination sources.

The investigation is in addition to the sampling that has been undertaken by the EPA across the former textile precinct, as detailed in Table 2.

Sampling results

Table 1: EPA water sample results for Rutherford Industrial Estate and offsite creek investigations (as at 7 June 2018)

Sampling date Location Result
23 March2018 Gardner Street stormwater drain 0.60
Stony Creek – Wollombi Road 0.12
5 April 2018 Gardner Street stormwater drain 1.02
Stony Creek – rear of Heritage Parc Estate and Wollombi Road crossing 0.56
Stony Creek – Wollombi Road 0.28
4 May 2018 Stony Creek – Sale Yards 0.01
Stony Creek – downstream of the Sale Yards <LOR
Sale Yards pond <LOR
Stormwater drain – approximately 120m upstream, north of former Truegain premises 2.81
New England Highway stormwater drain – downstream of Maitland airport 0.3
New England Highway stormwater drain – downstream of Maitland airport 0.03
Stormwater drain, New England Highway 0.06
Heritage Parc Estate pond 0.02
Gardner Street stormwater drain 0.98
Dam above Stony Creek 0.11
Stony Creek – Wollombi Road 0.37
Stony Creek – Wollombi Road 0.38
Stony Creek – Wollombi Road 0.31
7 June 2018 Stormwater pond–Mustang Drive 0.02
Drainage channel–Spitfire Place <LOR
Stormwater pond–Spitfire Place 0.04
Stormwater drain, approximately 200m upstream, north-east of former Truegain premises 4.08
Stormwater drain–Kyle Street 0.97
Kyle Street premises 0.74
Kyle Street premises 0.06
18 July 2018 Stony Creek – Wollombi Road 0.17
Fishery Creek – Ryans Road 0.06
Fishery Creek – Ryans Road 0.04
Fishery Creek – Mount Dee Road 0.05
Fishery Creek – Cessnock Road 0.04
Wallis Creek – O’Connells Road/Louth Park Road 0.04
Wallis Creek – Trappaud Road/Creek Bank Road 0.04
Wallis Creek – Carrington Street 0.06
Stormwater drain– approximately 120m upstream, north-east of former Truegain premises 0.09
Stormwater drain– approximately 200m upstream, north of former Truegain premises 3.67
12 February 2019 Stormwater pond- Mustang Drive 0.05
Stormwater drain, New England Highway 0.03
Dam adjacent to Stony Creek 0.07
Stony Creek – former golf course 0.79
Stony Creek – former golf course 1.15
Retention Dam – 500 m east of Gardiner Street <LOR
Stony Creek – 100 m south of Truegain 0.7


Note 1: The health based guidance values for PFOS/PFHxS are 0.07μg/L for drinking water, and 0.7 μg/L for recreational water. as outlined in the PFAS National Environment Protection Measure (Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

Note 2:  <LOR is below the laboratory limit of reporting.

Table 2: EPA soil sample results for Rutherford Industrial Estate (as at 5 March 2019)

Sampling date Location Result
12 February 2019 Little Kyle Street – northern side 0.021
Little Kyle Street – northern side 0.0038
Little Kyle Street – northern side 0.006
Little Kyle Street – southern side 0.0036
Kyle Street 0.002
Little Kyle Street – southern side 0.0038
Little Kyle Street – southern side 0.0073
Little Kyle Street – southern side <LOR
Drainage Line adjacent to Cavalry Avenue 0.0048
Former Anambah Landfill 0.0033


Note 1: The health based guidance values for PFOS/PFHxS is 20 mg/kg for industrial/commercial land use, and 1 mg/kg for public open space, as outlined in the PFAS National Environment Management Plan, January 2018.

Note 2: <LOR is below the laboratory limit of reporting.

Insiders reveal decades of dumping toxic waste by Rutherford waste-oil refinery Truegain, also known at Australian Waste Oil Refineries


Read the full article by Nick Bielby and Donna Page

“MILLIONS of litres of toxic waste collected from across Australia has been secretly pumped into creeks or dumped on the ground over decades by a Maitland waste-oil refinery company.

Newcastle Herald investigation can reveal that Truegain Pty Ltd, also known as Australian Waste Oil Refineries (AWOR), pumped vast quantities of a chemical cocktail polluting creeks that run to the Hunter River…

Truegain was also dumping the notorious contaminant per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] into Maitland’s sewer and the toxic firefighting chemicals – at the heart of the Williamtown’s ‘red zone’ environmental scandal – have been detected in extremely high levels in a creek behind the refinery.

As the effort continues to contain the heavily contaminated site, dozens of former workers have told how the company would routinely use its Rutherford plant and surrounding waterways as a dumping ground for waste collected from across NSW, Canberra and Victoria – though one former company director the Herald was able to reach denied the claims.

Former workers, who described the operation as ‘ultra shonky’, said rather than treat all the waste brought to the Kyle Street refinery, Truegain would dump products it had collected from industrial yards, airports, service stations, mines and car washes, especially if the plant was nearing capacity.

Dirty, frothy, caustic-smelling or oily liquid waste would be flushed down drains or pumped to nearby Stony Creek…

Large hoses would be connected to storage tanks and liquid pumped down a stormwater drain on Maitland City Council land along the eastern boundary of the property, or from storage tanks at the rear of the plant: all to avoid the cost of paying for ‘expensive’ treatment chemicals and to give the appearance that the company was meeting limits for discharge into Maitland’s sewer system.

As a result, a huge quantity of prohibited chemicals made their way into Stony Creek that leads to the Hunter River.

To avoid detection, Truegain took advantage of its 24-hour operating licence, flushing at night, and during times of heavy rain.

Philip Towers, who worked at the refinery for more than a decade and refused to have anything to do with the illegal dumping, said the pollution of waterways around the plant was ‘no accident’.

‘It was deliberately done, all to save money,’ he said. ‘I remember 160,000 litres of dirty water went missing one weekend. When I left on Friday it was there and when I came back on Monday it was gone.’ …

Barry Grant, one of more than 35 former workers who spoke to the Herald, spent 12 years at the refinery and said workers didn’t speak out because they couldn’t afford to lose their jobs and didn’t want to be responsible for their co-workers ending up unemployed…

According to a former supervisor, the company would fool inspectors by pouring milk into storage tanks so it looked like chemicals were being added as part of a treatment process…

In 2016, Truegain was caught by Hunter Water releasing toxic firefighting foam chemicals, or PFAS, into the sewer.

The company pleaded ignorance, telling authorities it was not engaged to treat the contaminant and was unaware PFAS was within liquid sent to the refinery for treatment.

But documents obtained by The Herald under freedom of information laws reveal a stunning admission from a relatively junior staff member whose account stands at odds with the company’s.

The worker told a Hunter Water compliance officer, before PFAS was detected at the site, he believed foam build-up on tanks at the refinery was caused by groundwater Truegain had been collecting ‘on and off for quite a while’ that was contaminated with ‘fire retardant’.

The revelation triggered Hunter Water’s investigation that found PFAS levels at the refinery ‘not dissimilar to the extremely high concentrations detected in parts of the Williamtown investigation area’, according to the authority’s then interim chief executive, Jeremy Bath.”