State land contaminated sites

Information on contaminated State land in Western Australia.

The Department manages Crown land that is affected by contamination and information regarding hazard control. 

Hazard Control

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Information regarding hazard control on State (Crown) land and unmanaged reserves in Western Australia, including fire, vermin and weed control.

Fire hazard control

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) is responsible for fire prevention on unallocated State land and unmanaged reserves outside the metropolitan area, regional centres and townsites.

Aside from DFES's fire prevention responsibilities outlined above, local governments in conjunction with the DFESare responsible for managing fire on unallocated State land and unmanaged reserves. The department has a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with DFES for fire prevention on unallocated State land and unmanaged reserves inside the metropolitan area, regional centres and townsites.

In relation to State land not covered by the MOU with the department, and where there is no legal requirement for the State to abide by the requirements of the Bush Fires Act 1954 (Cwlth), the department seeks to be a good neighbour and to fulfil its management responsibilities.

Funds are budgeted annually for fire abatement programs on unallocated State land and on unmanaged reserves inside the metropolitan area, regional centres and townsites. This work is arranged by DFES, in accordance with its MOU with the department. Priority is given to large tracts of land considered to present a high risk to communities and to State land adjacent to urbanised areas (e.g., metropolitan Darling Scarp bushlands).

Vermin and weed control

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is responsible for managing declared plants and animals on unallocated State land and unmanaged reserves outside the metropolitan area, regional centres and townsites.

In relation to State land within the metropolitan area, regional centres and townsites, funds are budgeted annually for weed and vermin control on State land, with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation contracting the work out on behalf of the department.

Other hazards on State land

A small allocation is provided each year to attend to other hazards on State land such as:

  • removal of dangerous trees
  • establishing warning signs for disused mining shafts and shallow swimming holes
  • removing abandoned improvements such as old buildings or vehicles.

If you require further information please contact us

To report any illegal dumping call 1300 784 782 or visit the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation website.

Northampton lead tailings project

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136 parcels of land within the Northampton town site have been remediated and remediation of the former Wheal Ellen mine site and construction of a permanent containment cell is currently in progress.

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, leftover materials from mined lead ore (called tailings) accumulated at the site (up to 75,000 tonnes). The lead tailings were progressively removed from the site by local contractors and residents 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 health effects on people and the lead tailings on Northampton properties was first identified in 1979. Since then, various investigations have been undertaken with the remediation of the Battery site and the encapsulation of lead tailings in a containment cell completed in June 2012.

In April 2013, the State Government, led by the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (the Department) commenced NLTP Phase 1 to assess the presence and distribution of lead tailings within the Northampton townsite. From 2013 to 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. In total, 743 properties were investigated for lead tailings. This represents 98% of all land parcels in the townsite. 

It is important to note that land owners who did not take part in the NLTP will be responsible for 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. The associated costs can be substantial to comply with the stringent testing requirements of the Contaminated Sites Act 2003 (the CS Act).

NLTP Phase 2 Part A

Between February 2018 and February 2019, 136 parcels of land within the Northampton town site that were impacted by lead tailings were remediated as part of Phase 2 Part A of the NLTP. At most properties it was possible to remove all tailings materials. However, where tailings had been used under structures or were not easily accessible, they were safely contained in-situ. This included the use of geofabric warning barriers over and around deposits of tailings not accessible for removal. Over 17,000 cubic metres of tailings and tailings impacted soils were taken to a temporary storage facility established at the Wheal Ellen site. This is a former lead mine located on the outskirts of town that has been abandoned and is now Crown land managed by the Department. 

Communication with the affected property owners has always been the Department’s top priority. Owners of properties where tailings material have been contained have also received an Ongoing Site Management Plan (OSMP). The OSMP will inform occupants of the presence and location for the long-term management of tailings on their property. This will assist to ensure tailings remain effectively contained or else prevent unacceptable human health risk if the tailings are disturbed in the future. Owners should pass on the OSMP to future owners and occupiers of these properties and the Shire of Northampton also hold copies of all OSMPs.

Next steps: Phase 2 Part B

The Department has engaged Raubex Construction Pty Ltd (Raubex) as the Contractor for Phase 2 Part B of the NLTP. Construction of the containment cell as a Class IV landfill facility commenced in early February 2021 and is expected to be completed in September 2021.

Phase 2 Part B of the NLTP allows for the creation of a permanent and secure facility to safely dispose of tailings removed as part of the townsite remedial works and tailings at the former Wheal Ellen site. This is currently being constructed at the former Wheal Ellen mine site. The design of the proposed containment cell will ensure that there is sufficient capacity to safely store all tailings material removed as part of the town site remedial works along with historic tailings stockpiles from the former Wheal Ellen site. The containment cell has been designed to blend into the existing hillside and will be rehabilitated with native vegetation of the region.

Throughout the NLTP, the Department has worked with the Shire of Northampton, 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 Part B. 

Contact

The Contaminated Sites Branch can be contacted via northamptonlead@dplh.wa.gov.au​.

Alternatively, you can contact the NTLP Project Manager on (08) 6552 4443.

Wittenoom

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The Wittenoom area is affected by asbestos contamination derived from historical mining activities at Wittenoom Mine, Colonial Mine and Yampire Mine.

Asbestos containment and management

The three Wittenoom mines operated in the area during the 1930's up until 1966 and produced waste material called tailings, which contain varying amounts of residual blue asbestos fibres (crocidolite).  

The stockpiles of tailings have been eroded and dispersed over the years since the mining operations have ceased and now extend for several kilometres downstream from the actual mine sites. Tailings were also historically removed from the stockpiles and used on roads and around the townsite as fill.

In 1978, the State government began phasing down the former town of Wittenoom because of concerns over health risks from the presence of airborne asbestos fibres. In June 2007 - Hon Jon Ford MLC, then Minister for Regional Development, announced that the town site had officially been de-gazetted.

Remnants of blue asbestos (the most deadly of all types of asbestos) are still present throughout the Wittenoom Asbestos Contaminated Area, presenting a serious risk to human health.

Wittenoom asbestos management area

The Wittenoom asbestos management area covers an area of 46,840 hectares of land and includes the former townsite, mining areas, Wittenoom Gorge and Joffre Floodplain. This entire area has been classified by the Department of Water and Environment Regulation (DWER) in 2008 as a contaminated site under the Contaminated Sites Act 2003.

The area was declared by DWER and the Department of Health to be "not suitable for any form of human occupation or land use".

Health risks in Wittenoom 

As a result of past mining activity in Wittenoom, tiny asbestos fibres remain on the ground and in the air.

The asbestos fibres have been dispersed throughout the area by wind and water erosion of tailings stockpiles at the former mining areas as well as historical use of the tailings for road base and fill around the townsite. The asbestos can be carried by wind and water, and can be disturbed by human activities such as walking or driving through the area, making them easy to inhale.

Exposure to asbestos fibres may result in contracting a fatal disease, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer.

Symptoms of these diseases may not be apparent for extended periods of time after exposure.

Asbestos fibres from past mining operations in Wittenoom have already resulted in thousands of fatalities among miners, residents and visitors to the town.

Stay safe. Do not travel to Wittenoom. 

For further information please visit the Department of Health's website at:

Recent State government actions

The department is leading a coordinated state government approach to manage asbestos in Wittenoom. Recent actions include:

2006: The State government engaged environmental consultants GHD/Parsons Brinckerhoff to undertake an assessment of the extent of asbestos contamination in the Wittenoom location.

2008: The Department of Environment and Conservation classified the area as contaminated- remediation required under the Contaminated Sites Act 2003. They also placed memorials against all certificates of title for properties in Wittenoom.

2010: The Department of Regional Development and Lands (RDL), commissioned an ethnographic and archaeological study of the Wittenoom area to ascertain the significance of the area and heritage sites to Aboriginal people.

2011: A technical workshop was convened by RDL to develop a priority ranking of the seven identified Wittenoom sites and to assess remediation/management options for each of the identified sites.

2012: RDL reconvened the Wittenoom Steering Committee requesting required agencies to nominate a designated staff member to the project.

2013: RDL held the first Wittenoom Steering Committee on 23 April 2013.

2013: The former Department of Lands engaged environmental consultants GHD to undertake feasibility studies on the preferred remediation options for the three highest risk sites at Wittenoom, including; Wittenoom Mine, Colonial Mine and the Wittenoom Gorge.

2013 to present​: The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage is currently working with relevant agencies and stakeholders to raise awareness of the risks posed by Wittenoom to the general public and local Aboriginal people and assess long term solutions for the management of the area.​

Wittenoom Steering Committee

In December 2012, the Department of Regional Development and Lands reconvened the Wittenoom Steering Committee. The objectives of the committee are to:

  1. co-ordinate the resolution of issues concerning the residual asbestos in and around the Wittenoom town site including:
    • The complete closure of the town of Wittenoom;
    • Management of the existing sites contaminated with asbestos and tailings, and the standards for remediation;
    • Minimising the public health and safety risks of asbestos fibres to the traditional owners, and the general public; and
    • To develop and implement an across government communications strategy on the Wittenoom asbestos issues.
  2. facilitate informed decisions by government departments, agencies and officers in relation to matters affecting Wittenoom and ensuring that, in so far as is consistent with statutory and regulatory obligations, decisions are made in a manner which have proper regard to public health and safety considerations and government strategy as to the future of Wittenoom
  3. provide co-ordinated advice to Government on the resolution of these issues including advice to Cabinet, as required.

Membership

The Wittenoom Steering Committee is made up of senior representatives appointed by each of the following government agencies:

  • Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (Chair)
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
  • Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (Mine Safety and Worksafe)
  • Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation
  • The Shire of Ashburton.

Guests may be invited as required.

Alternative destinations to visit in the Pilbara

There are many beautiful destinations in the Pilbara to visit including:

Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park is one of Western Australia's largest national parks and arguably one of the most spectacular. Unbeatable for adventure, the park is famous for its sheer gorges, waterfalls and cool swimming holes.

Tom Price
Nestled deep in the Hamersley Ranges, at the base of the beautiful Mt Nameless, is the town of Tom Price. Tom Price is a picturesque, modern and fully serviced town designed to blend into the natural environment and is a great destination during the sunny winter months.

Nullagine and Marble Bar
With the discovery of gold in 1888, and later diamond and gem stones, Nullagine is unspoilt nature and is a must for the traveller seeking true four wheel adventure and off the beaten track wilderness. Stop in Marble Bar to visit the historic gold rush mining town and the Comet Mine.

 For further information please go to the Department of Tourism website.

Page reviewed 3 August 2021