Herons Creek to Stills Road Pacific Highway upgrade: incident investigation
On 27 March 2012 a worker was sent to a doctor after reporting he had noticed fumes in his bobcat cab as he worked on the Herons Creek to Stills Road worksite.
On the same day a worker in the same vicinity complained of headaches.
About a week later three more workers complained of similar symptoms and were all sent to a doctor. This is when it was made clear the symptoms may be directly linked to the work site. As a precaution, RMS and BMD arranged an exclusion zone around the area where the workers were affected so further investigations could be carried out.
Incident Investigation Update
Work to remove contaminated material from the face of a cutting on the Herons Creek to Stills Road Pacific Highway upgrade is under way.
At the end of May work restarted on the upgrade after advice from independent experts and preliminary test results cleared the majority of the worksite and external sites which received soil from the worksite of harmful contaminants.
The only remaining exclusion zone on the site is around the face of the cutting where the contaminated material originated. This exclusion zone will remain in place until the material is removed in accordance with the approved Remedial Action Plan.
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has been working closely with a number of authorities, including EPA, to develop the Remedial Action Plan which will allows the source of the contamination to be removed from site and disposed of at a licensed landfill.
RMS is currently working with the EPA and its contractor to prepare appropriate Safe Work Method Statements and Environmental Work Method Statements to ensure the material is safely removed, with no impact on the surrounding environment.
Two of the external sites and the road side area near the Herons Creek School where material was sent to from the site have been cleared of harmful contaminants.
RMS and its contractor BMD Constructions are working with the owners and operators of another external site where contaminants have been identified in part of the spoil area to ensure an action plan is in place as soon as possible.
Interim advice from the independent chemical specialists have found the discoloured soil near the former burial pit area from a 1980 truck crash contain low levels of organopesticides including DDT and volatile fatty acids including acetic and propionic acid.
The levels of the organopesticides are extremely low and are not considered to pose a health risk. The findings were at a level below EPA endorsed soil criteria for residences, schools and kindergartens.
The volatile fatty acids found in the exclusion zones otherwise known as proprionic acid can be caused when residuals of sodium propionate (a chemical used in food additives) breaks down in the ground in a low-oxygen environment.
After the 1980 crash sodium propionate was buried at the worksite and although it was removed during the planning phase of the project the residual breakdown has caused fatty acids to evolve.
When exposed, the acid is most irritating when first uncovered and exposed to the air. It then dissipates with time and becomes essentially unnoticeable.
There are no long term health effects associated with exposure to these fatty acids.
Safety of the site, for workers and the general public will remain the NSW Government's top priority while this investigation is continuing.
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File Date Description File Size PDFRemedial Action Plan June 2012 3MB PDFConsideration of Chemical Control Order Requirements for Scheduled Chemicals Fill 10 and Stockpile July 2012 This correspondence includes consideration of requirements under the Scheduled Chemical Waste Chemical Control Order 2004 ('the CCO') in relation to fill material generated during road construction works. (JBS Environmental) 996KB PDFHastings Valley Motorcycle Club Contamination Assessment June 2012 A contamination assessment at the Hastings Valley Motorcycle Club on the fill from the Herons Creek to Stills Road worksite. (JBS Environmental) 14MB PDFContamination Assessment report - Part1 June 2012 Contamination Assessment report by JBS Environmental. 10MB PDFContamination Assessment report - Part2 June 2012 Contamination Assessment report by JBS Environmental. 10MB PDFContamination Assessment report - Part3 June 2012 Contamination Assessment report by JBS Environmental. 7MB PDFIllness cluster recommendations May 2012 Letter from Hunter Industrial Medicine, 25 May 2012. 97KB PDFAcid rock test result April 2012 Letter from Coffey Geotechnics on the results of acid rock testing of one sample of rock materials supplied by BMD Construction Pty Ltd (BMD) sourced from Cut 4 on the Herons Creek to Stills Road Project, 17 April 2012. 82KB PDFOriginal Site and Stockpile Assessment for ENM Exemption January 2012 Report by VGT Environmental Compliance Solutions to review and interpret the soil results in order to determine adherence to the Excavated Natural Material (ENM) Exemption 2008 under the protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2005. 277KB PDFMedia Release May 2012 Return to Work media release, 30 May 2012. 24KB PDFInterim Status Report - Contamination Investigations May 2012 JBS Environmental, Interim Status Report - Contamination Investigations, Embankment near Herons Creek, Public School, Herons Creek, NSW, 30 May 2012. 80KB PDFInterim Status Report - Contamination Investigations May 2012 JBS Environmental, Interim Status Report - Contamination Investigations, Pacific Highway Upgrade Site, Herons Creek, NSW, 29 May 2012. 81KB PDFFactsheet May 2012 Incident investigation factsheet, 23 May 2012. 151KB PDFLetter May 2012 Letter to the householder - Incident investigation, 21 May 2012. 218KB PDFPreliminary report by Brian Gillian May 2012 External review of roads and maritime services’ handling of contaminated material on the pacific highway herons creek to stills road section. 732KB PDFANSTO Report April 2012 Radiation Survey of the Pacific Highway Upgrade Project Construction Site - Port Macquarie, 19-20 April 2012. 232KB PDFTerms of Reference April 2012 Terms of Reference for external investigation. 28KB PDFLetter April 2012 Letter to the householder - Incident investigation, 25 April 2012. 878KB PDFEPA Notice of Preventative Action April 2012 EPA Notice of Preventative Action, 23 April 2012. 287KB PDFRadiation Scan investigation April 2012 Letter from Coffey Geotechnics, Herons Creek Project - Radiation Scan during April 2011 investigation. 76KB PDFPreliminary Investigations April 2012 VGT, Preliminary Investigation into Possible Contamination Pacific Highway Upgrade - Herons Creek to Stills Rd, April 2012. 2MB PDFSite validation Assessment April 2011 Coffey Geotechnics, Site Validation Assessment, Herons Creek to Stills Road Upgrade, 14 April 2011. 846KB PDFWaste Classification April 2011 Coffey Geotechnics, Waste Classification, Herons Creek to Stills Road Upgrade -14 April 2011. 498KB