Investigation underway at former Tamworth gasworks

An investigation to determine the extent of contamination dating back more than 100 years is now underway at the former Tamworth gasworks in NSW.

Tamworth Regional Council has been issued with a Preliminary Investigation order under Section 10 of the Contaminated Land Management Act 1992 because the former Tamworth Municipal Council was a previous operator of the site.

According to Council Compliance Manager Ross Briggs, the detailed site investigation is expected to take a week to complete.

Soil samples and other test results will then be reviewed, with the findings including estimated costs of any remediation expected in mid-2021.

“A specialist company will carry out the investigation both on the site and adjoining sites which involves drilling for soil samples and installing monitoring wells,” Briggs said.

“This will provide a clear picture of the full extent of contamination as well as a plan for remediation.”

The need to investigate the site at 200 Peel Street emerged in 2019 after contaminated land consultants engaged to investigate adjoining land identified contamination of the groundwater consistent with contamination from historic operations of a gasworks.

The site was owned by the Tamworth Gas and Coke Company, Colonial Gas Company and the former Tamworth Municipal Council from 1882 to 1973, and operated as a town gas manufacturing plant or gasworks.

Elgas Limited currently owns the site and operates an LPG depot and distribution centre.

Briggs said the historic operation of gasworks throughout NSW has left a legacy of soil and groundwater contamination, in some cases extending to adjoining sites.

“The major contaminants of these sites typically include tars, oils, hydrocarbon sludge, spent oxide wastes, ash and ammoniacal recovery wastes,” he said.

“While many of these materials were recycled or reused, it was common for some to be buried on or near a gasworks site in underground tar wells, pipes and purifier beds and not removed when a gasworks was decommissioned.”

Council has received grant funding from the NSW Environmental Trust which will cover half the cost of the investigation up to $200,000 and half the cost of remediation up to $500,000.

Council has committed $700,000 for its share of the cost.

“This on-site investigation is the start of a process which may take years to conclude, but council is committed to working with the EPA to ensure everything possible is done to ensure the site will not pose a health risk to our community in the future,” Briggs said.

Image credit: Tamworth Regional Council. 

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