Fears for buildings after Canberra service station fuel leak contaminates soil and groundwater

A fuel leak at a petrol station in Canberra’s west has leached into surrounding soil and contaminated groundwater, leaving nearby homeowners and businesses worried their properties will have to be demolished.

A letter sent out to nearby residents said assessments had found there was “evidence that soil, groundwater and soil vapour [had been] contaminated”.

The Caltex service station in Kippax first discovered the leak in mid-February, at which point it decommissioned the tank.

Assessments are underway to determine the extent of the damage, and the incident has been reported to the ACT Environmental Protection Authority.

Engineering firm WSP Australia has been brought in to conduct environmental investigations at the site.

“Investigations to date indicate that the ambient air (the atmosphere) is not contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons and is not flammable.”

Investigations have confirmed the service station does not pose a health risk and continues to operate, while tap water remains unaffected by the fuel leak and completely safe to drink.

The letter to nearby residents also said there had been extensive work done to pump out and recover the fuel from beneath the service station.

“Fuel recovery is ongoing, and a significant proportion of lost product has been recovered,” the letter said.

Investigations to determine the full extent and nature of the leak, in consultation with the EPA and an independent environmental auditor are ongoing.

“We have now completed onsite investigations and are expanding works to include off-site areas surrounding the site,” it said.

“Access to your property may be required so that we can determine the extent of the leak and identify if any further remediation activities are required.

“Once the nature and extent of the contamination and any associated risks are determined, a report detailing the outcomes of investigative works will be provided to the EPA.”

‘We don’t know how bad it is’

Dee looks away from the camera so you can only see the back of her head and her dog.
Kippax resident Dee Brown said she was worried the petrol could be hazardous to her health.(ABC News: Selby Stewart)

Resident Dee Brown, who did not want to reveal her face so as to protect her identity, has lived in the unit block across the road from the Caltex petrol station for 12 months.

She is one of more than 10 residents living in the complex.

Ms Brown said the letter was hand-delivered by one of the workers in July, but she had since heard nothing.

“I’m worried about the extent of the leak, we don’t know how bad it is,” Ms Brown said.

“We were told it wasn’t that bad but they’re clearly still here drilling.”

More to come.