Soil withdrawn from sale over PFAS fears
June 20 2019 (The Australian)
Soil supplied by a waste-recycling company that took water contaminated with toxic firefighting chemicals from a military base has been withdrawn from sale by one of Queensland’s largest landscaping outlets.
Centenary Landscaping confirmed it has stopped selling its Econo Soil product which had been made from soil supplied by Nugrow Metro a waste recycler and composter facing action over its handling last year of water contaminated with perfluoroalkys, or PFAS, substances from Amberley air base, west of Brisbane.
It has also been revealed that NuGrow accepted tonnes of sludge taken from the air base which, while not being officially deemed to be contaminated, is alleged by subcontractors to have come from the same sites as the contaminated water.
Centenary Landscaping chief Conor O’Shea yesterday said the revelations had led to it withdrawing the soil supplied by NuGrow from the market.
“For us, it brought up a lot of questions and … we haven’t got all the answers yet,’’ he said.
“Our concern is when this product goes to homeowners and non-commercial type sites. The buck stops with us and now that we know this (the PFAS issue) we need more information.”
Mr O’Shea said Centenary had stopped selling the material while it conducted its own independent tests to confirm the contents.
He said he would be meeting with the company’s soil scientist to discuss which testing regime to apply.
NuGrow Metro was last year found to have breached environmental regulations by accepting 880,000 litres of storm water contaminated with PFAS at its waste disposal and compost manufacturing site at Swanbank, about 40km southwest of Brisbane.
The company was intending to mix the water into compost that it sold to local landscapers.
But Queensland Department of Environment issued an environmental order to the company, alleging NuGrow’s Swanbank site did not have the appropriate order to accept the water.
The order required the company to contain any of the water and ensure it was disposed of at an appropriate licensed facility.
It also alleged NuGrow could not dispose of the water by diluting the compost. NuGrow has disputed the department’s claims and launched legal action to appeal against the order.
NuGrow chief strategy officer Peter Thompson said he was confident Centenary Landscaping would shortly recommence selling NuGrow’s composts and soils once it had undertaken its own testing.
“Feedback from our wider landscaping network shows continued confidence in the high standard of our products,” he said.
The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says studies of humans exposed to PFAS find the chemicals may affect growth, learning and behaviour of infants or older children, and increase the risk of cancer.