1950’s – 2010’s: Nufarm Coogee Kwinana (WA). Contaminated Site

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Nufarm Coogee

Location:       Mason Road, Kwinana. Western Australia

Status:           Inferred POP’s hotspot.

POP’s type:     Dioxin and furans

The Nufarm Coogee site is currently used for the manufacture of a range of agricultural chemicals. Liquid wastes from production are injected via a deep bore into the Cockleshell aquifer causing contamination of the aquifer with herbicides. However, POP’s contamination in soil and water beneath the site is believed to be due to the activities of a previous company that occupied the site – Chemical Industries Kwinana (CIK).

CIK manufactured 2,4,D and 2,4,5,T at the site for use in the Vietnam War as Agent Orange. The Cockburn Sound Management Plan[1] acknowledges that a plume of contamination of chlorinated phenol remains beneath the site and has migrated to other nearby industrial sites. Quality control in the production of 2,4,5 trichlorophenol and 2,4D by CIK was often poor and ‘bad batches’ were disposed of in pits on-site and from time to time were burned.

[1] CSIRO. Trefry and David et al., (2006) Status of Groundwater Quality in the Cockburn Sound Catchment. Final Report to the Cockburn Sound Management Council. p.54.

Source: National Toxics Network – Australian POPs Hotspots A briefing paper on facilities and sites with confirmed or inferred POP’s pollution. Author: Lee Bell March 2009.

The poor quality material was believed to contain levels of dioxin above the regulatory controls of the day. Open burning of these chemicals is likely to have created dioxin contamination at the site even if the chemical waste was initially free of dioxin or contained low levels.

CIK had a sister company operating in Eagle Farm Queensland manufacturing a similar range of chemicals. Recent reports indicate that similar contamination may be present at that site.

The CIK site (pictured above in 1968) was also used to bury drums of unidentified chemicals and chemical mixtures and these are believed to have contributed to the groundwater contamination. When Nufarm took control of the site it inherited hundreds of drums of chemical waste including high strength OCP’s and many unidentified chemical wastes and mixtures which were eventually disposed of by in a manner acceptable to Western Australian environmental authorities.

Action Required:

  • Investigation of dioxin levels in soil, groundwater and in surrounding surface soils
  • Complete remediation of POP’s related waste at the site.

Source: National Toxics Network – Australian POPs Hotspots A briefing paper on facilities and sites with confirmed or inferred POP’s pollution. Author: Lee Bell March 2009.