Current status: Phase 2
The State Government has committed to undertaking Phase 2 of the Northampton Lead Tailings Project (NLTP). Phase 2 will be led by the department and will comprise the management and remediation of lead tailings identified in the Northampton townsite.
140 properties within the Northampton townsite have been identified as being impacted by lead tailings.
Phase 2 Part A of the NLTP comprises the townsite remedial works and includes:
- the preparation of individual property validation plans developed in consultation and with the approval of the landowner (including agreement of "make good" following works)
- extensive planning and consultation to ensure the properties with the highest risk groups (young children, infants and pregnant women) are prioritised
- the undertaking of remedial and "make good" works.
The general remediation process that will apply is outlined in the NLTP Phase 2 Management Framework. This Framework describes the range of remedial options considered by the department depending on the location of tailings and other considerations. The department has undertaken engagement with each of the affected landowners to discuss the specifics of each property.
A significant milestone was achieved in May 2017, with the awarding of the contract for the Townsite Remedial works. The contract was awarded to Merit Consulting Group, a WA based civil engineering and earthworks firm who specialise in remediation projects. Merit's key subcontractor is Aurora Environmental, who are responsible for the environmental management and community consultation works for Phase 2.
The NLTP townsite remedial works commenced in February 2018 and are now near completion. Merit Consulting Group and Aurora Environmental will then demobilise from Northampton and focus on completion of the property reporting.
Phase 2 Part B of the NLTP has allowed for the creation of a local, secure disposal facility to safely dispose of any tailings removed as part of the townsite remedial works. As part of Phase 2 Part B, a containment cell will be constructed at the Wheal Ellen site, a former lead mine located on the outskirts of town that has been abandoned and is now Crown land. The design of the containment cell will ensure that there is sufficient capacity to safely store all tailings material removed as part of the townsite remedial works.
Throughout the NLTP, the department has worked with the Shire of Northampton, and the Departments of Health, Water and Environmental Regulation, and Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, and other community and industry stakeholders. The department will continue to work with all of these stakeholders throughout Phase 2.
Communication with the affected property owners continues to be the number one priority. Blood lead testing and consultation with Department of Health is still available as a service to Northampton residents.
Northampton's mining history and NLTP Phase 1
The Northampton region has a long history of lead and copper mining. The old State Battery opened in 1954 and over the next 30 years, left-over materials from mined lead ore (called tailings) accumulated at the site (up to 75,000 Tonnes). The lead tailings were progressively removed by local contractors and residents from the Battery site and used for a range of purposes including building foundations, fill material, driveways, garden areas and bases for outbuildings.
The potential link between lead-related effects on people and the lead tailings on Northampton properties was first identified in 1979. Since this time, various investigations have been undertaken resulting in the remediation of the Battery site by demolishing the buildings and encapsulating the remaining lead tailings in a containment cell on site. These works were completed in June 2012.
In April 2013, the State government, led by the Department of Lands, and the Departments of Health, Environment Regulation and Mines and Petroleum, commenced NLTP Phase 1 to determine the presence and distribution of lead tailings within the Northampton townsite. From 2013 through 2014, a systematic property inspection program was undertaken across participating properties. The free property inspection program was extended throughout Phase 1 by the Project Steering Committee, to ensure that as many landowners as possible had the chance to participate. This included a "final call" in 2016, with Phase 1 closeout works completed in November 2016.
Of the 759 parcels of land within the townsite, 728 properties were subsequently investigated as part of the Phase 1 main investigation and closeout works.
During Phase 1, officers from the department and the Department of Health met with all the impacted properties owners and residents, offering information and support if needed.
It is important to note that land owners who do not partake in the NLTP will ultimately bear any costs associated with any future private investigation into lead tailings on their property that might be required as a result of clearances for future subdivision, redevelopments and extensions. These costs can be very substantial in order to comply with the stringent testing requirements of the Contaminated Sites Act 2003.