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 the processing of mineral ores (lead tailings) accumulated at the site. Some of the lead tailings were removed from the Battery site by local contractors and residents and used for a range of purposes throughout the town including building foundations, fill material, driveways and garden areas.
Remediation of the former State Battery site was completed in 2010 using funding from the Contaminated Sites Management Account and the site is no longer a potential source of lead tailings.
The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH) is coordinating a government project to investigate the extent of lead tailings remaining in Northampton and manage the identified tailings.
Phase 1 of the Northampton Lead Tailings Project (the Project), to determine the presence and distribution of lead tailings within the Northampton townsite, has been completed. Most (98 per cent) of the town's approximately 650 properties participated in the investigation—137 properties required management or remediation to address lead tailings impacts.
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Phase 2 of the Project includes the management and remediation of lead tailings identified in the Northampton townsite.
The general remediation process is outlined in the Northampton Lead Tailings Project (NLTP) Phase 2 Management Framework. This Framework describes the range of remedial options considered by DPLH depending on the location of tailings and other considerations. DPLH has undertaken engagement with each of the affected landowners to discuss the specifics of each property.
Phase 2 Part A works, comprising the townsite remedial works, commenced in February 2018 and include:
- clean up of identified tailings where practicable and subsequent “make good” works;
- the preparation of individual property validation plans developed in consultation and with the approval of the landowner (including agreement of "make good" following works); and
- development of individual property reports and on-going site management plans (required where tailings might remain in-situ).
These works have now been completed. Where tailings remain in-situ some properties will have to be reported and managed under the Contaminated Sites Act 2003. The report documenting these works was provided to DWER on 14 July 2020.
Phase 2 Part B of the NLTP allows for the creation of a local, secure disposal facility to safely dispose of tailings removed as part of the townsite remedial works. As part of Phase 2 Part B, a containment cell is planned for construction at the Wheal Ellen site, a former lead mine located on the outskirts of town that has been abandoned and is now Crown land.
Communication with the affected property owners continues to be the number one priority.
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Visit the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage website for more information on the Northampton project.
Read the Department of Health’s information sheets to find out about lead and your health.
Updated July 2020