Eighteen Vasse properties contaminated by groundwater

Vasse residents Kim Maslin and Terry Clifton were notified groundwater beneath their property has been contaminated from waste run off and is no longer safe to use.
Vasse residents Kim Maslin and Terry Clifton were notified groundwater beneath their property has been contaminated from waste run off and is no longer safe to use.

Contaminated groundwater has infiltrated eighteen properties around Rendezvous Road and Jarrah Elbow in Vasse with residents being notified the water is no longer safe to use.

Investigations by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation found groundwater contamination beneath the Busselton Waste Facility extended in the direction north-north west of the site.

Arsenic, nickel, manganese, sulfate, benzene, chlorinated hydrocarbons including solvents and other products were found in the groundwater.

DWER advised residents the concentration of these substances exceeded health guidelines for drinking water, non-potable use of groundwater, recreation and livestock.

Resident Terry Clifton said if he wanted to sell his property he must inform potential buyers the groundwater was contaminated.

“It is worthless, no-one is going to buy it, but what gets me is, if the properties between Rendezvous, Queen Elizabeth and Kookaburra are contaminated why are they subdividing on the other side of Kookaburra?” he said.

“It is not like the water will get to Kookaburra and go no further. 

“There are only two solutions, buy everyone out or give them free water because there is not much you can do about the land, they reckon the pollution is about 1.5 metres underground.”

Mr Clifton first reported the problem around 2002 when he noticed the groundwater he used was frothing and stunk.

A pipe was connected to the property in 2008 so they could access water which could be used in their home for drinking and bathing as a temporary bypass.

For years, Mr Clifton has been eating fruit grown on his property and has now been advised anything grown at the property should not be eaten.

“I have the greenest lawn in the country, but you can’t play on it,” he said.

Fellow resident Kim Maslin said a neighbouring property next to the Queen Elizabeth drain was also contaminated and found it hard to believe the drain was not contaminated as well.

“That drain goes straight past the high school and out into the ocean.”

Department of Water and Environmental Regulation acting executive director science and planning Paul Brown said samples collected from the drain did not identify any significant contaminants of concern but the drain had not yet been tested for per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds which were found in shallow groundwater, 

Mr Brown said remediation of groundwater contamination over a large area was complex and difficult and there were no immediate actions which could be taken to effectively stop the contamination spreading.

“As part of the current investigations, the City of Busselton, their consultants and the independent auditor will be required to consider and evaluate a range of remedial options,” he said.

“Investigations remain ongoing to assess the extent of contamination.

“The City of Busselton, is undertaking investigations to identify whether there are additional properties to those in the vicinity already identified as having contaminated shallow groundwater.” 

Mr Brown said where contamination is suspected to extend beneath additional properties, these are required be reported to the department, tested and classified where appropriate.

“When the investigation is complete any further advice regarding potential for contamination will be made available to those potentially affected.”

Harcourts real estate director Craig Edwards said it would be difficult to determine how the value of the properties would be impacted.

Mr Edwards said if the property owners wanted to sell and the only problem was the groundwater contamination, it could be resolved by switching water to a reticulation system off the mains.

Because using mains water would incur an ongoing cost, Mr Edwards said for bigger properties that could be a problem that would not go away but could potentially be mitigated by a cheaper water rate.

The City of Busselton were contacted for comment but did not respond by the time of publication.