Contamination fears over construction of wind farm next to Fiskville
June 23 2019
The plumes of dust started drifting over the paddocks as work started on a $300 million project to build a 107-turbine wind farm in the countryside surrounding the Country Fire Authority’s former Fiskville training college.
As digging began last year on the deep footings for turbines that will stand 171 metres high, it stirred up dirt that was carried off by the wind.
The dust could be seen for miles. And it had some neighbours worried. Tests at nearby Beremboke Creek in 2012 and 2015 had confirmed the presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl – the toxic chemicals known as PFAS and used in products including firefighting foam – on land near Fiskville.
The contamination of properties downstream from Fiskville was revealed during a 2016 parliamentary inquiry into the academy.
Fiskville, 95 kilometres west of Melbourne, is one of Victoria’s most notorious toxic sites.
PFAS heavily contaminated the former CFA training college over decades, and was linked to cancer cases in many firefighters who worked and trained there. Fiskville was shut down in 2015 after the deaths of at least 16 former firefighters from cancer.
It has long been the source of complaints from neighbours, who say their health and properties have been seriously affected.
A number of them had also had cancer, the inquiry noted. It described the CFA’s contamination of neighbouring properties as a “grave offence”.
Michelle Evans, who lives south of Fiskville at nearby Mount Wallace, regularly took photos of the dust caused by earthmoving blowing across the paddocks during work on the southern section of the wind farm, which will contain 57 turbines.
She and nearby resident Janene Skidmore, who already has a wind farm across the road from her property, will each have turbines about one kilometre from their back fences.
While the dust was a regular annoyance and source of concern over what it might carry over their land, an explosion that came without warning over summer as subcontractors blasted through rock shocked them.
A video posted to YouTube by a civil engineering company, ACE Contracting Group, shows a blast set off about 1.35pm on February 2, by subcontractor Sequel Drill and Blast. It kicked up dirt and rocks, and sent a big plume of dust streaming off into the distance.
Neighbours had already complained about construction spreading dust across the area and potentially into rainwater tanks that hold their drinking water. The explosion made them more worried about risks to their health, and to those working on the project.
They alerted Goldwind, Moorabool Shire, the Victorian Wind Farm Manager and Planning Minister Richard Wynne about the disruption of large amounts of soil and their fears about contamination.